The survey, conducted by YouGov, collected insights from over 7,000 people across five countries and highlights that 40% of consumers in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland and the UK admit they feel they lack some of the essential nutrients.
A substantial 60% of people questioned do not recognise that many dairy products are a natural source of vitamins and minerals including calcium, protein and B vitamins.
The extent of the knowledge gap varies by country. For example, a sizeable three quarters of people in Sweden don't recognising dairy products as a source of protein.
In Arla Foods' report of this research, the dairy giant argues that food confusion is 'prevalent' across Europe.
Hanne Søndergaard, CMO at Arla Foods, argues the findings show, despite people wanting to lead a healthier life, there is still a big nutrition knowledge gap and more education is needed to help consumers understand what nutrients are in their food.
“It’s clear from the research that there is still a lot to educate consumers on when it comes to nutrition," She says.
"The demand to live healthier lives is constantly increasing yet we can only do this when we truly understand our food and the impact that food has on our body.
"Food literacy needs to be improved so people can compose meals which are rich and varied in essential nutrients."
Perhaps a clue as to why so many people feel malnourished, 34% of people admit to cutting a food from their diet completely, with 45% of these people doing so because they believe it will make them healthier.
In Denmark one third of people cut a specific food from their diet. For Germans, a quarter only eat one main meal a day, highlighting why almost half of the nation might feel they may be lacking in key vitamins and nutrients.
The research went on to reveal that half of those people who decide to cut out a food do so from after their twenties, with 1 in 5 making a cut when they are a teenager.
Søndergaard adds that Arla is devoted to innovating with dairy and is working to improve awareness of the heath benefits of this food source.
“Consumers are constantly demanding new experiences from their food and new trends are emerging all the time. Our vision is firmly rooted in bringing the nutritional benefits of milk into exciting concepts that meet these demands and ultimately help them understand how dairy can be part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.”
Cheese health file
Hard cheeses (e.g. Cheddar and Havarti) are natural sources of protein, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, phosphorus, zinc.
Low fat shredded mozzarella are natural sources of protein, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, phosphorus, zinc.
Kefir is a natural source of protein, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, phosphorus, iodine and potassium.