The Nielsen Healthy Eating Index scored 402 in 2009, a 33.4% increase from 389 in 2008. The chart below shows the seasonal nature of healthy eating habits across the US. Every year, consumers make unhealthy food choices over the holidays. Then in January, diets get back on track and healthy eating is a priority again.
January seems to set the tone for healthy eating throughout the year. The month of September (back-to-school) is another time when Americans tend to make healthier food decisions.
Products with Fat Content Claims Lead Contributors
Products with claims about fat content make the largest contribution to the Index (19.5%), even when excluding milk sales and factoring by 50%. Other products near the top of the contribution lost include UPC-coded fresh produce (14.9%), products with “natural” claims (11.3%) and products with “reduced calorie” claims (11.2%).
Healthy, Inexpensive Items Prove Elusive
Though the ability to find inexpensive food and beverage options is a core need for most consumers, finding healthy budget-friendly options is perceived as a challenge when making consumption choices, according to a TNS Landis US Consumption Universe study published on Foodtrends.com.
Many of the items at the top of the inexpensive brands list are desserts with questionable nutritional value. For example, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Lifesavers and Popsicle make the low-cost grade. Snack brands are more prevalent than center-plate and beverage offerings on this dimension.
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Campbell’s Soup and McDonalds’ scored highest on the inexpensive list among potential “main-course” offerings. Microwave popcorn, crackers, gum and cheese were among the least expensive product categories.
About the Survey: By combining the sales of 13 healthy eating components relative to total (UPC-coded food sales), the Nielsen Healthy Eating Index can track healthy eating choices over time and monitor the impact of industry health and wellness initiatives. The index is calculated by adding supermarket sales for products with health claims on their label, like “natural” or “reduced calorie.” Sales are also added from some inherently healthy categories like fresh produce.