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Sustainability, Nutrition and More: What the Latest Health and Fitness Trends are Telling Us

/ By CivicScience

Warm Up

When it comes to health and fitness trends, the one thing you can count on is that they are always changing. Whether it’s a foodie buzzword, or the latest workout craze, fitness fanatics jump head first into novelty trends and behaviors.

Using data from the CivicScience InsightStore™, we’re able to track health and fitness trends over time to see what’s new and novel, and to predict where we’re headed next.

Early Morning Exercisers…

• are more likely to exercise regularly.
• are more likely than all other groups to buy organic.
• are more likely to say music is a passion of theirs (20%). 36% of the early morning fitness fans prefer country music, 27% prefer R&B, and 21%  prefer Rock or Classic Rock.
• are more likely to follow health and fitness trends “very closely compared to all people who exercise.

The Latest Foodie Buzzword? Sustainability

The Main Course: Shoppers are increasingly interested in sustainability as a food label, even more so than regulated terms such as GMO-free and organic.

Health, diet, and cuisine trends come and go, but one thing is on the rise and is likely here to stay: people want their companies to reflect their own values.

Terms like “GMO-Free” and “organic” attempt to embody the sentiment of social consciousness, but often come across as contrived. On the other hand, sustainable food, or the practice of food produced under practices and farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, and animal welfare, could be referred to as an “old” practice. We’re seeing that customers are going back to their roots, and restaurants, markets and grocery stores are scrambling to meet them there.

Our survey data show that 44% of U.S. Consumers buy sustainable food.

44% of shoppers opt to purchase sustainable food when available. Compare that with 19% of customers concerned with GMOs.
Our data shows that only 19% of U.S. consumers care about GMOs when food shopping.

Then compare that to 25% of shoppers who buy organic under the same circumstances, and it looks like we’ve got a winning label, in spite of the fact that sustainability is a core tenet of organic farming.

Our surveys shows that 25% of consumers buy organic food all of the time, and 41% buy organic food occassionally

The term “sustainable” leaves a lot up to interpretation as it’s not yet a legal designation like organic or non-GMO, but consumers seem to have made up their minds that they want it. Our research shows it’s a favorite candidate for the next big food buzzword, and brands should find a place for it in their marketing.

Evening Exercisers…

• are more likely to drink coffee every day (39%).
• are more likely to consider themselves overweight (68%).

Preservative-Free Labeling Is So Last Year. Consumers Want Less Sugar.

The Main Course: While consumers used to be concerned primarily with preservatives or chemicals, concerns around added sugar and overall sugar content are on the rise.

Which health buzzwords are most important to consumers: preservative-free, GMO-free, all natural, no sugar added, reduced sodium, superfoods? The list could go on and on. In the past few years, the news has linked increased sugar consumption with a higher risk of death from heart disease. It seems consumers have started to listen.

Since April 2015, we have been asking consumers the following question “Which of these do you feel is most harmful to your nutritional health?” It was a topic we covered in May 2015, and it wasn’t until recently (October 2016)  that we began to see shifts in opinion.

Our survey data show that 35% of consumers think preservatives and chemicals are most dangerous for their nutritional health.

Take a look at the trending data:

Our survey data show that the number of U.S. consumers that care about sugar is on the rise, while the number of consumers concerned about food preservatives and chemicals is on the decline.

The number of consumers choosing preservatives / chemicals is decreasing. In 2015, 36% of adults believed preservatives were the most harmful, and in 2016, that number dropped slightly to 33%. Added and total amount of sugar saw a larger jump. In 2015, 24% of adults chose sugars, whereas in 2016, 29% answered the same way. (Note: 17% of adults believe the total amount of sugar is most harmful, while 12% believe added sugar is the most harmful. Both answers are trending upwards by the same amount, so we decided to combine the options.)

If this trend continues, we could expect to see the number of people who believe sugars are most harmful to surpass the number of people who think preservatives and chemicals are most harmful. It doesn’t mean consumers no longer care about chemical and preservative-free foods. Maybe they have just come to expect that their foods are free of preservatives and chemicals.

More consumers are starting to view sugar in a negative light when it comes to their health, and it doesn’t matter if it’s natural sugar or added sugar. Consumers may start altering their diets to reflect these concerns. Food and beverage companies and restaurants may want to start thinking of switching the focus from “preservative-free” and “all natural” to terms such as “made from natural sugars” or “no sugar added.”

We will continue tracking this question to catch any future shifts.

Frequent Exercisers…

• make up 36% of US Adults.
• are more likely to be 55+
• are more likely to never hit the gym (50%). 23% fo frequent exercisers own their own equipment.
• are 2x as likely than others to pay for music streaming services.

GMOs and “I don’t knows”: Consumers’ Thoughts on the Latest GMO Study

The Main Course: For all the controversy GMOs have raised, consumers with the most buying power still feel relatively uninformed regarding the topic.

From organic to sugar-free and natural, we’re constantly analyzing the labels on the food we choose to eat. And, as recent FDA labels show, food is becoming increasingly difficult to categorize or label.

Another wrinkle in food labeling is the oft-mentioned, but controversial GMO. GMO’s have been hailed with both criticism and praise for the potential risks or rewards of genetically altering an organism. Many of the foods we already consume have been genetically engineered in some way or another, but speculation and debate over the safety of this practice wages on.

When a definitive study by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found “no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops,” we decided to ask readers about their sentiment towards GMOs.

The question,”A new report came out saying GMO crops don’t harm human health. What are your thoughts on GMOs?” was answered by 1,974 US adults from May 18, 2016, to May 20, 2016. The results are as follows:

A graph with our data that show 26% of consumers aren't worried about GMOs.

The controversy of this issue is apparent, as responses in favor and against GMOs are identical. That being said, the majority answer, 47%, indicated that many are not familiar with the risks or rewards of genetically modified food. A recent study from the University of Florida yielded similar results–with so much information circulating around GMOs, people are confused or misinformed on the topic.

Those who answered undecided on the topic were more likely to be women living in the suburbs. Men are much more likely to agree with the study that GMOs are not harmful. Women are more likely to be skeptical of the claims, or disagree with the claims overall. Overall, parents are less likely to agree with the study.

What does this mean for GMOs? The results of the survey indicate confusion and a general lack of understanding on the topic. Seeing as GMOs are already prevalent in our foods, it would benefit the FDA and brands to explain the benefits and cite these studies to educate and allay consumers’ concerns.

Given that women were more likely to be skeptical of the study or undecided on the issue could be a detriment to brands. Women are more likely to be the primary shopper for families, and with that buying power, brands who don’t use GMOs could easily influence purchases. On the inverse, if brands selling GMO foods kickstarted education, they might be able to create advocates out of informed female shoppers.

Fitness Grab Bag

• 25% of people don’t practice yoga because they don’t think they’re flexible enough
• 28% of US Adults wear athletic clothes in public almost every day.
• 17% of US Adults don’t practice yoga because they’re bad at meditating / shutting off their thoughts.

Cool Down

From sugar-free and sustainable, to athleisure and Ohms, the way we view health as a society is always changing. What we see now is a questioning of ingredients in our food, as well as a curiosity regarding the origins of our meals. As we learn more about how the food we eat affects our health, it’s natural to expect consumers to become savvier in what they purchase and eat. In addition, we can see the links between health-conscious eating and exercise, as well as the growing interplay between technology and fitness.

If you’re interested in learning more about our methodology, check out this Whitepaper written by leading academic scholars. In addition, you can download a PDF version of this report here. 

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