What Marketers Should Really Take Away From the 2017 IFIC Survey

The International Food Information Council publishes their Food and Health Survey results every year in a long, detailed report. And every year, we devour it. It’s chock-full of information about how consumers define “healthy” foods, what they are looking for in healthy foods, and what motivates their purchase decisions. If you’re a marketer of a healthy brand, the Food and Health Survey can offer some fascinating, and often surprising, insights into how consumers think about health and wellness.

If you haven’t had time to read the IFIC survey results yet—or even if you have—we wanted to share with you the five things we found most compelling and consequential for marketers of healthy brands.

Our Take on Five IFIC Findings That Health & Wellness Brands Should Know About

1. Consumers (still) trust health professionals most.

Consumers want to be healthy, but they are overwhelmed by information that can be superficial, conflicting, and often deceptive. Though their primary source of health information is friends and family, they don’t ultimately trust the information that comes from this group. And they trust TV personalities and the media even less.  

The IFIC report once again shows that consumers rely on their personal healthcare professionals—like dietitians, nutritionists, physicians, personal trainers, and more—for trusted information. And not just as adults but through every stage of life (though less so in young adulthood). 

Unlike social media posts or interviews with health experts, face-to-face conversations between consumers and health professionals drive consumer action. How do we know? Because for the past 18 years, we’ve been putting healthy brands at the center of these face-to-face interactions and watching consumers turn those recommendations into purchases at the grocery store. In one recent program, 70% of consumers who had received brand information from a health professional in a face-to-face interaction said they would definitely buy the brand in the future.

2. Health-conscious consumers want more information, not less.

According to the IFIC survey, consumers most frequently define healthy foods by what they do and do not contain. They are looking for foods high in the nutrients and components they want, and free from the artificial ingredients and preservatives they don’t. Less important to consumers? Catch-all terms like “natural” or “non-GMO.” With unclear direct health benefits and a myriad of possible meanings, they have little impact on consumers.

Marketers, this means you should educate consumers and the health professionals they go to for advice. (We recently wrote about this on our blog.) Dig in. Go beyond the health headline.

3. If you’re a brand, you have a default health halo. Use it to your advantage.

The IFIC results show that consumers are more likely to believe a brand name product is healthier than its generic equivalent, even when the Nutrition Facts label is identical. 

Why is that? We think that consumers may associate higher quality, better ingredients, greater nutrition, and/or functional benefits with branded foods versus their generic counterparts. Brands, you have a unique opportunity to highlight your health and wellness bona fides — consumers already perceive them as somewhat healthier. Build on this perception.

4. Consumers are telling you what they want—are you listening?

Only 14% of consumers say they are following a specific eating pattern, whether that’s eating a paleo diet, going vegetarian, or following Weight Watchers. You know what they are doing? Taking small steps to better health. Once again, trends come and go, but what’s realistic and achievable to consumers are the small steps they can take every day to eat a healthier diet.

As a marketer, you should take that finding and run with it. Forget jumping on the latest trendy bandwagon. Instead focus on how your brand meets consumers where they want to play—in the land of baby steps, not rigid diets or unattainable ideals.

5. Stop worrying about a certain four-letter word.

Not too long ago, some brands stopped using the word “diet” and refocused their marketing efforts on healthy eating patterns and “ideal” weight management. Lean Cuisine even launched a “diet” blocker—a web browser extension that masked the words “diet” and “dieting” in online content.

Well, consumers just want to lose weight, no matter what we call their efforts. According to the 2017 IFIC survey, wanting to lose weight was the number one motivator of changes in eating habits. And 1 in 3 consumers says that weight loss is their most desired benefit from foods or nutrients. 

Health and wellness brands that help consumers meet this goal stand to gain from their efforts. No need to complicate this one. Consumers want to lose weight, so help them.

Read more about the IFIC survey results in The Washington Post, or download all 68 pages for yourself here.