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EU consumers health-savvy, claims Tate & Lyle

03-Jan-2006

European consumers have become more concerned about healthy eating over the past two years and are now much more sceptical about company claims, according to research from Tate & Lyle.

This increase in concern about and awareness of health issues has caused consumers to question the nutritional value of food they buy and consume on a regular basis and to become sceptical about brand claims.

When asked, 65 per cent of consumers agreed with the statement 'often brands that claim to be healthy aren't healthy at all'.

The two-year research programme from UK-based Tate & Lyle includes a mix of qualitative research discussions and quantitative polling data obtained from representative samples of shoppers in Britain, France and Germany.

Tate & Lyle's qualitative studies show that there are some differences between the British, French and German attitudes towards food. Balance and moderation are central to French and German eating, whereas in the UK, whilst a balanced diet is seen as a good idea, it is not the reality of everyday eating.

Consequently, there is a more negative attitude towards food in the UK, where some foods are labelled 'bad' and others 'good'.

Across Europe, while consumers are becoming more concerned about the health consequences of their diet, the majority of people still believe that taste is the most important factor in determining what they eat.

More than two in five consumers (42 per cent) agreed that enjoying food is more important than nutrition, while one in three people (33 per cent) argue that taste and health are equally important. The remaining 25 per cent of respondents were ambiguous, not agreeing with any stated view.

"People want to eat healthier diets but they want the full taste of indulgence brands," said Rachel Moffatt, Tate & Lyle European marketing manager.

"There is no room for compromise."

Other key findings from the study include the fact that fat and sugar are the top two elements that consumers believe they should limit to make their diets healthier. These are the most frequently requested ingredients to be reduced in a wide variety of foods.

Eight in ten people (82 per cent) believe that fat 'needs to be limited to have a healthy diet' and 75 per cent of people felt the same way about sugar.

In addition, one in two adults (51 per cent) said that they felt solely responsible for what they eat. When consumers were asked what other influences there are on their diet, popular choices included family and friends (46 per cent), brands and advertising (28 per cent), the media (17 per cent) and retailers (14 per cent).

However, only 27 per cent of parents believe they solely influence what their children eat. Family and friends (68 per cent), brands and advertising (30 per cent), schools (30 per cent) and government (17 per cent) were popular choices as additional influences. Parents remain highly concerned about brands that target their children with 74 per cent believing 'food and drinks marketed at kids are often unhealthy'.

Tate & Lyle believes that increased awareness has been fuelled by government campaigns and media debates, such as Jamie Oliver's crusade to improve school dinners. The debate about children's diet has also been key, with steps taken in both Britain and France to control the types of food available in schools.

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