According to the survey, 97% of Brits claimed that they tried to eat healthily at least some of the time. Of this group, 54% looked for low sugar content when shopping for healthy foods, compared with 50% who look for low fat content.
In a corresponding survey in 2012, 52% of healthy food shoppers considered low fat to be the most important health claim, compared with just 43% for low sugar.
Contributing to your five-a-day (52%), low salt content (47%) and low saturated fat content (46%) are also leading factors.
The significance of calorie counting took a further blow when the Mintel research revealed that well over one third (37%) of Brits didn’t know how many calories they consumed on a typical day. At 42%, men were the worst offenders, while 33% of women were unaware.
“Historically, fat has been the ‘food villain’ and the macronutrient that people have been most wary of, relating to its intuitive link to body fat,” said Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel.
“However, the tables have now turned, and low sugar has taken the lead over low fat in terms of perceived importance for healthy food – indicating consumers’ increased vigilance about their intake of sugar.”
Despite awareness that certain ingredients can be bad for health, a balanced diet remained key for consumers. Two thirds of Brits agreed that unhealthy treats are fine as part of an healthy diet, and half (49%) agreed that there is no need for ‘light’ or ‘diet’ products in a balanced diet.
- 97% of Brits try to eat healthily at least some of the time
- Of these, 54% look for low sugar content in healthy foods
- In 2012, just 43% looked for low sugar content in healthy foods
- 37% unaware of the calories they consume
- 66% believe unhealthy treats are fine as part of a healthy diet
Home cooked meals
Highlighting the strong interest in healthy home cooked meals, some 57% of Brits said they typically cook from scratch, and 55% include plenty of vegetables in meals.
Despite the lack of awareness surrounding calorie intake, Mintel research indicated that Brits were still a nation of dieters. Half (48%) of Brits tried to lose weight in the 12 months to November 2015, rising to 57% of women.
What’s more, of those who have tried to lose weight, almost two thirds (64%) do so all or most of the time.
However, of those Brits who have tried to lose weight in the past year, as many as one quarter didn’t know how many calories they consumed on a typical day.
The Mintel research also revealed that Brits were willing to invest in staying healthy, with 32% of UK consumers interested in trying the latest foods claimed to boost health, for example chia seeds and spirulina.
Meanwhile, read how sugar became an unlikely key ingredient in a recent mountain rescue.