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Chicago—While the vast majority of US grocery shoppers (82 percent) put at least some effort into healthy eating, far fewer (34 percent) put in “a lot” of effort, according to research from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Rodale Inc.

The 2016 “Shopping for Health” analysis was released at last week’s FMI Connect in Chicago.

Today’s food shoppers understand the important role food choices play in their health, but they still struggle to make changes to improve their food selections. Results from the “Shopping for Health” study revealed that half of shoppers consider themselves overweight (51 percent) and say they need motivation to help them eat healthfully (48 percent).

Among other things, the study examines the various ways in which health and nutritional concerns affect food buying and eating decisions, and measures changes over time.

Compared to the prior year, three in four shoppers switched to a healthier version of at least one type of food, with healthier yogurt (32 percent), milk (27 percent), and bread (26 percent) topping the list, the study found.

Also, shoppers are now buying more whole grain (43 percent), high fiber (41 percent), multigrain (39 percent), all natural (38 percent), low sodium (33 percent) and unprocessed whole foods (33 percent).

“Many of the findings correlate with some of the broader movements and trends we have seen in the market, namely food as medicine, the importance of eating locally, and the shift from diet food to real, whole foods,” said Melanie Hansche, editor-in-chief of Rodale’s Organic Life, who presented the study findings at FMI Connect.

“Shopping for Health” was conducted by GfK on behalf of Rodale and FMI. A total of 1,404 US adults were interviewed online last November. For more information, visit www.fmi.org.

Separately, a new survey from Coast Packing Company and Ipsos Research has found that only half of consumers say they understand the content of food labels, and less than a third believe them.

The nationwide survey of 1,000 adults, conducted in late May, examined both awareness and behavior around food labeling, querying consumers about what they read, understand and believe, and how they act, based on that information. The Coast/Ipsos survey found both gender and generational divides in how consumers respond to data conveyed on food labels.

When it comes to listed ingredients, less is more both for women and Millennials: 40 percent of women agreed that “a food label with fewer ingredients has a positive effect on my purchasing decision,” versus 25 percent of men, and 33 percent of those in the 18-34 age bracket endorsed that view.

Millennials are avid readers of food labels (68 percent vs 62 percent overall) and more than half say they understand food label content (54 percent to 50 percent overall).

Some 35 percent of Millennials believe the content of food labels, the highest percentage of any age group.

Among the study’s other findings: • Almost two in three consumers (62 percent) read food labels, with women (65 percent) more likely than men (58 percent) to do so. • While Millennials are most likely to read food labels, those ages 35-54 (56 percent) are least likely to do so. • Some 30 percent of women and a like percentage of Millennials say they understand the concept of “minimally processed” on food labels.

• More women (40 percent) than men (25 percent) agree that food labels listing fewer ingredients are a net positive, the Coast/Ipsos survey found.

Food label information tends to be more of a deterrent to consumption than a license to eat, the survey found.

Overall, 45 percent of consumers avoid certain foods based on the content of food labels, with women (54 percent) more likely than men (36 percent) to avoid certain foods based on food label content.

The Coast/Ipsos survey also found Older adults, ages 55 and above (53 percent) are most likely to avoid certain foods based on the content of food labels, while Millennials (42 percent) are least likely to steer clear of foods based on label information.

Some 26 percent of those surveyed consume more of certain foods based on what’s on the label, the study discovered.

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