'Ultra-processed' foods still dominate consumers' diets: study
- Despite an outcry for manufacturers to produce more "healthy" and "natural" foods, Americans still on average consume about 58% of their total daily calories from "ultra-processed" foods, such as frozen pizza and soda, according to a study published in the medical journal BMJ Open.
- Government health warnings about added sugar haven't had the impact manufacturers feared either: 71% of Americans exceed the recommendation to consume no more than 10% of daily calories in the form of added sugar, according to the CDC.
- Manufacturers of breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and salty snacks have the least to worry about, as these were consumers' top choices for ultra-processed foods based on the foods' contributions to consumers' total daily calories, according to a CDC survey.
Despite how much attention has been paid to "healthy" and "natural" foods, consumers' purchasing and eating decisions still do not reflect those concerns. Companies like Mars have suggested that even health-conscious consumers allow themselves indulgences, particularly the sweets and salty snacks that the CDC confirmed were consumers' favorites.
The fast growth of better-for-you food segments is undeniable based on category sales statistics and the performances of startups and companies that make "natural" products. Major manufacturers have responded by removing artificial ingredients and acquiring smaller better-for-you producers to align their portfolios with consumer demands.
The question now is whether these changes and acquisitions are worth the additional costs if consumers are still buying "ultra-processed" foods anyway. This sort of data will not necessarily stop manufacturers from pursuing the development and acquisition of products that consumers believe are healthier. But company executives may rethink their investment strategy and funds allocation to continue to support the products and brands that, while maligned by certain groups of consumers, are clearly still in demand across the general population.