NEW YORK -- Teenagers have an appetite for healthier food and beverages, but cannot always find just what they're looking for, according to "Understanding Teen Attitudes Toward Health and Nutrition," a survey published recently by BuzzBack, a market research firm here.
The survey, which polled 500 13- to 18-year-olds in the United States during July 2003, found teens were cutting back on carbonated soft drinks and instead consuming more bottled water, and looking for alternatives to candy and chips. Overall, the study showed, girls' health concerns about food tend to center on weight, while boys view food health benefits in functional terms, particularly providing energy and protein. All teens rated freshness, ease of preparation and "on the go" convenience as primary influences when they choose a food or beverage.
"Girls said they want snack and meal options which are fresh, low-calorie and nutritious. Marketing of products which have these characteristics will appeal to girls," the report said. "Teen boys, however, are more likely to respond to advertising or packaging which promotes a product which will give them extra energy and nutrition without sacrificing taste."
A move away from carbonated sodas and toward bottled water and juices was the most profound change illustrating teens eating healthier, the study said. Fifty-four percent of males and 75% of females indicated they drink bottled water in a typical week. Soda was the item that 53% of total respondents said they were most cutting back on.
Substantial majorities of the teens polled -- 84% of the girls and 60% of the boys -- said they wanted to further improve the way they were eating. Yet in snacks, unlike beverages, teens rarely mentioned healthy alternatives. "[About] 24% of teens who are turning away from junk food have found no real consistent, replacement snack worth mentioning," the report read. "Given that teens are snacking about three times a day and given they are looking for healthy, low-calorie, highly nutritious foods, there seems to be an opportunity for new product options in this area."
Overall, teens cited potato chips and tortilla chips (63%), cookies (55%), chewing gum (47%), fresh fruit (47%) and ice cream (43%) as the most popular snacks. Boys tended to prefer salty snacks and cookies, while girls favored chewing gum, fruit and cereal.
The survey also asked teens to write in their favorite brands in various categories. Across all categories, Oreo was listed as a favorite brand most often (22%), followed by Ritz (21%), Doritos (20%), Coca-Cola (19%), Snickers (18%), Orbit (14%) and Lay's (14%).