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Taste perceptions may trump health concerns when it comes to fat and sodium in foods

Friday, July 12, 2013

While Americans may be willing to forgo calories in their soft drinks and desserts, they seem less willing to embrace foods with lower fat and sodium levels. Mandatory nutrition labeling and consumer concerns about fat prompted food manufacturers to offer lower fat versions of high-fat foods in the early and mid-1990s. Products with “low/no fat” claims grew from 9 percent of all new products in 1989 to over 25 percent in 1996. But many consumers found the taste of these new fat-free and low-fat foods disappointing, which may have led companies to limit their use of low/no fat claims. From 1997 to 2001, the percentage of new products with low/no fat claims fell from 22 to 10 percent. Concerns that consumers associate poor taste with reduced-sodium foods may have contributed to fewer low/no sodium claims, as well. Products claiming to be “low/no sodium,” “low/no salt,” or “no salt added” fell from 12 percent of all new products in 1989 to 3 percent in 2001, before rising to 5 percent in 2010. This chart appears in “Obesity and Other Health Concerns Lead Food Companies To Step Up Health and Nutrient Claims” in ERS’s July 2013 Amber Waves magazine.

"Gluten-free" and "No trans fats" appearing on more new food products

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Over 7,000 new food and beverage products (including reformulated ones) appeared on grocery store shelves in 2010, and 3,134 of them carried health- and nutrition-related claims, such as “low sugar” or “high fiber,” on their packages. Claims related to gluten, trans fats, and calories were among those with the biggest increases over 2001-10. In 2010, 12 percent of new products claimed to be “gluten free,” up from 1 percent in 2001. Increases in claims related to calories, fiber, and sugar marked a reversal from previous trends during the 1990s. For example, the percent of new products showcasing their fiber contents, which had been falling since 1989, began to increase in 1998. Greater emphasis on health and nutrient claims likely reflects consumer interest in nutrition and obesity stemming from increased coverage of these topics by public and private sources and the media. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, Introduction of New Food Products With Voluntary Health- and Nutrition-Related Claims, 1989-2010, February 2013.

Just over 43 percent of new food products in 2010 carried health and nutrition claims

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Food companies may seek to woo customers by placing voluntary health- and nutrition-related claims, such as “low fat” or “high fiber,” on their products’ packages. According to a recent ERS report, new food products (including reformulated ones) bearing health- and nutrition-related claims accounted for 43.1 percent of all new U.S. food and beverage products in 2010, up from 25.2 percent in 2001 and 34.6 percent in 1989. The downward trend in new products with health- and nutrition-related claims during 1989-2001 suggests that the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 may have prevented nonqualifying products from making these claims. This chart appears in the ERS report, Introduction of New Food Products With Voluntary Health- and Nutrition-Related Claims, 1989-2010, February 2013.

Dietary Guidelines shifted some Americans' bread purchases toward whole-grain options

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide consumers with science-based advice for making healthy food choices. A new recommendation in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines was that half of all grains people eat be whole grains. ERS researchers analyzed grocery store bread purchases before and after release of the 2005 Guidelines to estimate the impact of the Guidelines separate from other economic factors that affect purchase decisions—such as the price of whole-grain relative to refined-grain bread, changing consumer incomes, seasonality in bread demand, and regional differences in food preferences. The 2005 Guidelines were responsible for households with incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty level increasing their whole-grain bread purchases by 19 percent and decreasing refined-grain purchases by 5 percent. While lower income households also purchased more whole-grain bread, their increased purchases were almost entirely due to declining relative prices of whole-grain bread. This chart appears in "Dietary Guidelines Have Encouraged Some Americans To Purchase More Whole-Grain Bread" in the December 2012 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Trans fat levels in new food products down from 2005 levels

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Negative health information about trans fats, combined with 2006 regulations requiring that food labels list the amount of trans fats in the food, have encouraged manufacturers to reformulate their products by reducing and, in many cases, eliminating trans fats. Trans fats are formed when vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated, raising their melting points and allowing them to be used in products such as snack foods and baked goods in place of more expensive animal-based fats, like butter. An ERS analysis of new products (including reformulated ones) introduced during 2005-10 found that trans fat levels for new bakery products declined by 73 percent--from an average of 0.49 grams per serving in 2005 to 0.13 grams in 2010. Trans fat levels for new snacks, desserts, prepared meals, and processed fish, meat, and egg products declined by around 50 percent over the period. This chart appears in "Trans Fats Are Less Common in New Food Products" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

"No trans fats" claims on new products surpass claims of no/low/reduced fat

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Federal regulations requiring food manufacturers to label the trans fat content of foods, combined with media coverage of the negative health impacts of trans fats, have encouraged manufacturers to reformulate their products and offer more "no trans fats" options. New (including reformulated) food products displaying package claims of no trans fats began appearing in substantial numbers in 2004 and increased every year through 2009. In 2008, the percentage of new products with no trans fats claims exceeded those with no/low/reduced fat claims. The number of new products claiming to have no trans fats dipped to 1,069 in 2010, slightly more than the 1,065 new products claiming to be no/low/reduced fat. This chart appears in New Food Choices Free of Trans Fats Better Align U.S. Diets With Health Recommendations, EIB-95, April 2012.

How producers and consumers respond to nutrition information: the case of whole grains

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Manufacturers were quick to respond to the recommendation in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that at least half of a person's daily grain intake come from whole grains. The average number of new whole-grain products jumped from 4 per month in 2001 to 16 in 2006. For whole-grain products, these reformulations have translated into increased sales of healthier foods. Based on Nielsen Homescan data, whole grain products accounted for 11.1 percent of all pounds of packaged grain products purchased in grocery stores (excluding flours, mixes, and frozen or ready-to-cook products) in 2001. By 2006, whole grains' share of total grain product purchases was 17.9 percent. By 2007, whole grain cereals accounted for 46 percent of all cereals purchased, while whole grain breads accounted for 20 percent of all bread purchased. This chart was originally published in the March 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Adults who use nutrition information from restaurants consume fewer calories than those who do not

Friday, November 16, 2018

As part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), respondents are asked whether they have seen nutrition or health information about foods on restaurant menus and, if so, whether they used that information to decide what to order. An ERS analysis of NHANES data from 2007-14 reveals that adults who reported seeing and using information on a full-service or a fast-food restaurant menu consumed 284 or 307 fewer calories per day, respectively, than did adults who reported seeing but not using the information—a calorie intake gap that is 14-15 percent of a 2,000-calorie reference diet. In full-service restaurants, wait staff take consumers’ orders for food from their tables and consumers pay after the meal is eaten. In fast-food restaurants, consumers order and pay for food from a counter before eating. The energy intake gaps between information users and nonusers can be attributed to differences in calories obtained from various sources, including grocery stores, supermarkets, and other stores. For instance, fast-food restaurant menu label users consumed 271 and 1,296 calories per day from fast-food restaurants and from stores, respectively, while nonusers consumed 345 calories per day from fast-food restaurants and 1,483 from stores. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, The Association Between Restaurant Menu Label Use and Caloric Intake, released on October 31, 2018.