Younger consumers are much more interested in — and willing to pay premium prices for — food products they perceive as for healthier than are older consumers, according to a global consumer survey shared exclusively with USA TODAY on Monday.
The Nielsen's Global Health and Wellness Survey offers compelling statistical evidence that younger consumers worldwide are far more concerned about everything from food ingredients to genetically modified food to organic foods than are their parents and grandparents, according to the survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries.
The most health-centric are Generation Z — consumers under age 20 — with 41% saying they would willingly pay a premium for "healthier" products. That compares with 32% of Millennials (ages 21 to 34) and about 21% of Baby Boomers (about 50 to mid-60s).
The message to product makers and retailers: Think healthy — and communicate that message.
"Companies that have a clear health orientation to their products will benefit most," says James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insights at Nielsen, who led the study.
But, at the same time, marketers need to be very transparent. That's because 63% of consumers globally are skeptical about about food health claims, the study says.
The skepticism about food health claims is high everywhere, but lower in Europe and the U.S. — where there generally is more regulation of health claims — than elsewhere, the study reports. While 56% of consumers in the U.S. and 51% in Europe are skeptical about health claims, those numbers jump in developing markets to 68% in the Asia Pacific region, 70% in Africa and the Middle East and 73% in Latin America.
Meanwhile, consumers aren't just saying that health matters — but also acting on those beliefs.
Globally, nearly 80% say they're actively using foods to forestall health issues and medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
Products claiming to be "all natural" have seen 24% sales growth over the past two years, and organic products have enjoyed 28% sales growth over that same period, Nielsen reports.
"Consumers are actually doing what they're saying," says Russo.
(Copyright © 2015 USA TODAY)