Survey shows how food standards differ by generations

Perceptions of healthfulness vary dramatically between Millennials and Boomers.

It’s no secret that Millennials are changing the food and nutrition landscape, but Baby Boomers have their own set of unique ideas about what they want on their plate.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation recently dug deep into what Boomers think about food and nutrition in the “2016 Food & Health Survey” and found that perceptions of the healthfulness of certain foods vary dramatically among generations, especially between Boomers versus Millennials.

The survey revealed that Boomers look for different health benefits from their food compared to other generations, particularly Millennials, according to the survey results. They are also more likely than Millennials to be interested in health benefits associated with foods such as weight management, cardiovascular health and digestive health. Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to be interested in benefits of mental health, muscle health and immunity associated with foods.

“IFIC’s consumer research continues to provide valuable insights into consumer perceptions on a number of issues related to food and nutrition,” said Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer of the IFIC Foundation. “These results further show how diet is not ‘one size fits all.’ This is especially apparent across the generations.”

Boomers showed a distinct definition of a healthy eating style compared to other generations. The survey found that Boomers are more likely than the general population (32% versus 22%) to define a healthy eating style by moderation/serving size and portions. Additionally, Boomers are more likely than Millennials (30% versus 17%) to define a healthy eating style as including certain foods they consider healthy.

Boomers, more so than Millennials, rated whole grains (80% versus 70%), protein from plant sources (75% versus 63%) and omega-3 fatty acids (71% versus 59%) as healthy.

Their opinions on sweeteners are changing as well. Almost four in 10 Boomers (37%) believe that “added” sugars are less healthful than they used to believe, with nine in 10 of those who have recently changed their opinion on added sugars reporting that they are now consuming less.

Of those who reported changing their opinion of added sugars within the last year, Boomers were more likely than Millennials (37% versus 29%) to view them as less healthful than they had in the past. Additionally, they were more likely to agree that low-calorie sweeteners can play a role in weight management (31%) than Millennials (14%) and the general population (18%).

In terms of who they trust for information about food, Boomers are more likely to trust their personal health care professionals (HCPs) for information on the types of food to eat compared to other generations. They are also more likely to trust registered dietitians/nutritionists (75%) and personal HCPs (73%) than Millennials (65% and 58%) and the general population (67% and 61%).

The survey also found that Boomers are less likely to trust fitness professionals (16%), farmers (11%) and bloggers (8%) than Millennials (27% fitness professionals, 21% farmers and 18% bloggers) and the general population (26% fitness professionals, 9% farmers and 15% bloggers).

The results were derived from an online survey of 1,003 Americans ages 18-80 that was conducted March 17-24, 2016. Results were weighted to ensure that they are reflective of the American population, as seen in the 2015 "Current Population Survey." Specifically, they were weighted by age, education, gender, race/ethnicity and region.

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