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    Fat Content and Calories of Most Concern to Consumers: ACNielsen

    SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- American consumers rate themselves as the world's most savvy shoppers when it comes to understanding nutrition labels on the foods they buy. But rather than worry about preservatives or additives, most focus on fat content and calories, according to a new global survey of consumers by ACNielsen.

    SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- American consumers rate themselves as the world's most savvy shoppers when it comes to understanding nutrition labels on the foods they buy. But rather than worry about preservatives or additives, most focus on fat content and calories, according to a new global survey of consumers by ACNielsen.

    The online study, which polled consumers in 38 countries, found that while Americans ranked themselves first in their understanding of nutritional information, they don't often check all the ingredients (see chart below).

    "Food labels represent an important opportunity for consumer packaged goods manufacturers to differentiate their products and build consumer trust, but the opportunities are lost if labels aren't being read," said Alice Fawver, s.v.p., Retail Measurement Services, ACNielsen U.S. Marketing. "This survey shows a lot of upside potential for getting consumers involved in using product labels."

    Fat content is the item regularly checked by the highest number of consumers globally (49 percent) as well as in North America (57 percent) and Europe (49 percent). In Latin America, caloric content is checked regularly by the largest number of shoppers (59 percent), while preservatives topped the list in the Asia-Pacific region (47 percent).

    Half or more of U.S. consumers said they "never" check for the inclusion of food coloring, gluten levels, or the glycemic index. Phil Lempert, a food trends analyst, ACNielsen consultant, and PROGRESSIVE GROCER columnist, said some of the findings can be attributed to the kind of information currently available on product labels.

    "Relatively few people check the glycemic index because very few companies are including the information on the labels of products sold in the U.S.," Lempert said. "But that will soon change. The glycemic index is set to become the next big thing in the food industry because it takes carbohydrates to the next level, from the amount of carbs a product contains to the impact that the carb level will have on a person's weight and energy."

    According to the survey, just 35 percent of U.S. respondents have heard of the glycemic index, which is a measure that indicates how much a food item will impact a person's blood sugar. Across all markets, awareness ranged from a low of 11 percent in Japan and the Netherlands to a high of 82 percent in Australia.

    Respondents were also asked whether they know the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat. In the U.S., 58 percent of respondents said they do. Across all markets, responses ranged from a low of 27 percent in Japan to a high of 82 percent in Norway.

    Among other findings, 65 percent of U.S. respondents said they "mostly" understand nutritional information labels on the food products they buy -- the highest level among the 38 markets surveyed. In Italy, just 6 percent of respondents indicated such an understanding.

    Globally, consumers in most markets said they are most likely to check labels when buying a product for the first time. Across all 38 markets, just 21 percent of consumers said they "always" read the label.

    The findings for this study come from the ACNielsen Online Consumer Confidence Survey, which gauges consumers' current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and other topics of importance to the CPG industry. The survey, which took place in May, 2005 over the Internet, polled more than 21,100 respondents in 38 global markets. All markets had sample sizes of approximately 500, except for China, France, Germany, UK and USA, which had sample sizes of approximately 1000.



    CHECKING FOOD LABELING

    Generally, how often do you check food labeling for the content or amount of:

    FAT
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    56%
    Global Respondents
    49%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 10th


    CALORIES
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    50%
    Global Respondents
    43%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 9th


    SUGAR
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    48%
    Global Respondents
    42%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 6th


    SALT/SODIUM
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    42%
    Global Respondents
    26%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    2nd


    TRANS FAT
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    40%
    Global Respondents
    24%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    3rd


    CARBOHYDRATES
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    40%
    Global Respondents
    28%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    4th


    PROTEIN
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    30%
    Global Respondents
    28%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 14th


    FIBER
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    28%
    Global Respondents
    27%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 15th


    ADDITIVES
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    25%
    Global Respondents
    36%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 32nd


    PRESERVATIVES
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    24%
    Global Respondents
    40%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    35th


    COLORING
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    16%
    Global Respondents
    36%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    38th


    GLUTEN
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    7%
    Global Respondents
    11%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 29th


    GLYCEMIC INDEX
    Percentage that checks "regularly"
    U.S. Respondents
    7%
    Global Respondents
    11%

    U.S. Rank Out of 38 Markets Surveyed
    Tie 28th

    Source: ACNielsen Online Consumer Confidence Study

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