IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Media Resources

The 2011 Functional Foods/Foods for Health Consumer Trending Survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, is the seventh, nationally representative, quantitative study designed to gain insights from consumers on their knowledge and attitudes toward foods that can promote health, or functional foods. The primary objectives of this study are to:

  • Measure and track changes in consumer awareness of and interest in functional foods over time
  • Explore how awareness levels and maturity of food and health benefit pairs impact behavior and perceptions
  • A new objective for the 2011 research was to measure consumers’ perceived barriers to consuming functional foods. This objective was added in 2011 to gain a deeper understanding about why in many areas knowledge has increased but consumption remains stable.

“Functional foods” can be defined as foods and food components that may provide benefits beyond basic nutrition.   Functional foods include a wide variety of foods and food components believed to improve overall health and well-being, reduce the risk of specific diseases, or minimize the effects of other health concerns. These foods include, for example, the naturally healthful components in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber in certain breads and cereals, calcium in milk, and fortified foods and beverages such as vitamin D fortified milk.  Functional foods, in its broadest definition, can also include dietary supplements.

Press Release and Webcast Slides

Click here to view the press release

Click here (pdf) to view the webcast slides

Quick Facts

  • Overall, the majority of U.S. consumers (95 percent) are confident that they have a “great amount” or “moderate amount” of control over their own health.
  • Cardiovascular disease (including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke) remains the top overall concern of American consumers (46 percent), followed by weight (32 percent) and cancer (22 percent).  Furthermore, cancer (22 percent), physical activity and exercise (21 percent), sleep and rest (20 percent), diet and nutrition (19 percent), and healthy aging (19 percent) are vying for the third top health concern.
  • Consumers overwhelmingly believe that food and nutrition play “a great role” in maintaining or improving overall health (73 percent). More so than exercise (63 percent) and family health history (39 percent).
  • When asked about their perceptions of functional foods, the majority of Americans (87 percent) continue to agree that certain foods have health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition, and half (50 percent) “strongly” agree.
  • Similar to 2009, a majority of Americans (87 percent vs. 85 percent in 2009) are interested in learning more about foods with benefits. 
  • When asked unaided, the top foods and food components Americans look to the most to help improve or maintain their health are: Fruits and Vegetables, Fish/Fish Oil, Dairy, Whole Grains, Herbs & Spices.
  • The top components with benefits mentioned in the survey include calcium (92 percent) and vitamin D (90 Percent) for bone health, protein (87 percent) and B vitamins (86 percent) for overall well-being, omega-3 fatty acids (85%) for heart health, and probiotics (81 percent) and fiber (79 percent) for digestive health.
  • Consumers are most likely to agree that functional foods can make a meaningful impact on health when they consume them (78 percent), and that the added benefits of these foods provide a compelling reason to consume them more often (76 percent).  However, only slightly more than half (57 percent) feel they have enough information to understand which foods provide an added benefit, and that they would consume more of these foods if a health professional told them they would benefit (54 percent).
  • When asked to select all of the sources of information that might impact their decision to try a food or food component, medical professionals and Registered Dietitians are the most influential (65 percent and 51 percent).  Media sources are also quite influential (66 percent), including internet (43 percent), TV new programs (34 percent), and magazines (30 percent), among others.  Other sources which nearly half of all Americans cite as influential include the food label (48 percent), health associations (48 percent), and friends and family (47 percent).

Additional Resources

Foods for Health Resource page

If you need additional information, a copy of the report, or would like to speak to someone in more detail regarding this survey, please contact Eric Mittenthal (Mittenthal@ific.org) or Jania Matthews (Matthews@ific.org)  at 202-296-6540.