Our changing relationship with food

Losing weight and eating healthily is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make. We don’t all stick to it for more than a few weeks, but there are some fascinating macro long term consumer trends in Britain that paint a nuanced picture of our relationship with food over the last 30 years.

Greater consciousness of calories consumed

Certainly, awareness of eating healthily is far higher than it was. Data from our Great Britain TGI study reveals that in 1987 18% of adults agreed with the sentiment ‘I always think of the calories in what I eat’ and this has steadily risen over the years up to 30% today. No doubt increased media coverage of healthily eating, coupled with repeated government health campaigns have helped to bring eating healthily to the forefront of many consumers’ minds.

Decline in believing all fast food to be junk

Talk of calorie-conscious behaviour brings us on to another key change across recent decades: the proportion of adults who believe that fast food is all junk. Agreement with this view stood at 41% in 1987, but is 34% today. At first glance this might be taken as a sign that increasingly consumers accept unhealthy foods, but we must bear in mind that what constitutes fast food has itself changed significantly over the years.

Whereas there was a time when most people would have associated fast food only with the most calorific and unhealthy meals, today there are a multitude of outlets offering very heathy options in a fast food format and even the more traditional burger and chips-style takeaways offer a range of healthy options alongside.

Rise of snacking culture

Related to the notion of grabbing food on the go, snacking behaviour itself has seen much change over the last 30 years. TGI data reveals that in 1987 42% of adults claimed to never eat between meals, a figure which has fallen to 30% today. Increasingly busy lifestyles are no doubt a factor in this, coupled with a weakening of the old notion that snacking between meals is unhealthy, especially as there are today so many heavily promoted snacking options that are explicitly positioned as being healthy.

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