NEWS1 December 2014

‘Natural’ food deemed healthy by UK consumers

News UK

UK — ‘Natural’ is the best proxy for healthy among the UK public according to research from food and drink research specialists MMR Research Worldwide exploring food category health profiles.


As more people are overeating and being classed as obese, MMR engaged 3100 consumers to determine their attitudes and behaviour toward food categories.

It found that ‘natural’ was most closely associated of all the categories with a strong health profile. In addition, the five categories perceived as most natural were also considered the healthiest; bread, baked beans, fruit juice and smoothies, breakfast cereal and yogurt. 

The research also showed that consumers are more convinced by the health credentials of products when the health property (such as natural, protein, fibre) is intrinsic to that product. So healthy was not associated with the reduction or removal of a property from food i.e. reduced salt, low fat.

Andy Wardlaw, MMR Research insight director said: “The reduced calorie message is often overused. Consumers mostly define natural by what isn’t in the product, ‘no additives’, ‘no colours’, ‘no preservatives’, ‘no e-numbers’, ‘no chemicals’ and ‘no artificial flavours’. Categories that are perceived as more natural or naturally higher in protein or fibre are also perceived to be more healthy.”

The research team divided the sample into five attitudes and behaviour groups. They were: healthy ( 22%), believes in simple health messages, natural food and exercise; on a mission ( 22%), driven to improve health, sceptical of health messaging and least likely to drink, smoke and eat out; hedonist (6%),: smokes, drinks and eats out, no interest in GDAs, ingredients and health; armchairworrier (18%), propensity to worry about health issues, but unlikely to exercise and have only lukewarm commitment to diet related health efforts and apathetic ( 12%), no interest in health or health messaging.

From these five groups, it can be deemed that 62% of the population are health aware; only two segments ( 44%) are health aware and motivated to eat healthily.

“Our attitudes toward healthy eating are not based on ignorance, it’s all down to motivation. Over half of the population is suffering from health message fatigue. They are fed up of hearing that one week red wine is good for you and the next week not. We have hours of interviews reflecting a mix of laziness, lack of willpower and people just making the decision to go about their diet in their own way,” said Wardlaw.