Consumers Say One Thing, Do Another

Jun 15, 2004

By George Anderson

According to a recent online survey of 4,000 consumers by Deloitte & Touche, consumers are very interested in healthy eating and weight control. They just don’t appear to
be very good at actually doing it.

Roughly 76 percent of those interviewed gave themselves credit for healthy eating habits, but as Tara Weiner, national managing partner of Deloitte & Touche’s Consumer Business Practice, points out, there’s more to the story than just that.

“Survey respondents mostly claim they try to eat healthy, read nutritional labels and that they would like to see more healthy food menu items, but given that 57 percent of the respondents also said they were overweight, it appears to be a struggle for most of us,” Ms. Weiner said in a released statement. “The survey shows that the food industry has a lot of different issues to deal with, many of which directly contradict one another, making this such a challenging time for the industry.”

Most consumers are not looking to lay blame elsewhere for the difference between their aspirations and actual behavior. Deloitte’s research found that nearly three out of every four consumers strongly disagree with obesity lawsuits filed against fast food chains. Fifty-four percent believe what a person eats is the sole responsibility of the individual.

Despite the emphasis on personal responsibility, consumers do find fault with food providers. More than half think portion sizes at fast feeders are too large and 83 percent believe these restaurants need to add more healthy foods to their menu selections.

“Fast food and casual dining establishments are the preferences of consumers. This creates a real opportunity, and perhaps a responsibility, for these types of establishments. As the survey shows, consumers today have a request for varied food options,” said Ms. Weiner.

Moderator’s Comment: How do food manufacturers, retailers and service providers balance products and services to address
the contradictory nature of consumers?

Trying to be all things to all people is usually the quickest path to failure. But, catering to consumers’ aspirations as well as actual behavior seems
to be a virtual requirement today, especially in foodservice.

Deloitte & Touche’s Tara Weiner said, “The survey results point out the difficulties and inherent contradictions in many of our current attempts to
eat nutritional, safe foods. Despite our stated interests, many of us often eat what is most convenient rather than what is most healthy. Food companies may want to factor
into their planning the reality that consumers are pretty evenly split on the issue of eating healthily, which makes it difficult to manage product lines.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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