Consumer Insights: RDNs Can Clear Up Confusion
Posted by , MS, RD, CDE

Bag of groceries

As a health enthusiast, I treasure summer for its warmer temperatures, longer days, abundant farmer’s markets, fruit and herb-infused waters, and the yearly food and health survey from the International Food Information Council and Foundation (IFIC). So maybe I don’t hold the same level of enthusiasm for each of these summer treats, but I really do enjoy gathering more insights about consumers, and that’s why I look forward to the 2018 Food and Health Survey.[i]

Each year, I dig in to look for contradictions. I want to know what erroneous ideas consumers hold, so I can address them in my private practice and write and speak about them to my various audiences. As usual, I found that consumers hold contradictory ideas about dietary fats. Nearly 70% of consumers identify omega-3 fatty acids as being healthy, but less than 25% believe EPA and DHA to be healthy, and only about 37% rate unsaturated fats as healthy.

Fortunately, the majority of consumers have not succumbed to the headlines claiming that butter is back and that saturated fats are beneficial. More than 50% of consumers rate saturated fats as unhealthy, and a mere 12% or so call them out as healthy.

Interestingly, the top health concern cited is cardiovascular health, which is new this year. In this survey, 20% of respondents ranked heart health as their primary health goal, up from 18% in 2017. Weight management was ranked number one by 18% of participants in 2018, down from 32% in 2017.  As registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), we can clear up the confusion about dietary fats and help them achieve cardiovascular health in one conversation. Let’s remind them that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats lowers cholesterol levels and reduces risk for cardiovascular disease.[ii] At the same time, we can share with them that the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA and ALA and that they are unsaturated fatty acids. We can give them lists of good fats like this one and encourage them to enjoy nuts, avocado and liquid oils like canola and olive oils. The likelihood of getting our messages across is good. When asked about the trustworthiness of information about which foods to eat and avoid, about one-third of respondents gave the highest rating (5 on a scale of 1-5) to RDNs. A total of 70% scored us 4 or 5.

It’s noteworthy to point out that, once again, taste is the number one driver of food and beverage purchases with 81% of respondents replying that it has at least some impact, followed by familiarity (65%), price (64%), and healthfulness (61%).

There are so many more gems in this survey. Do check it out.