Press release

US Consumers Hugely Underestimate Consumption of Ultra-Processed Foods

CHICAGO, June 18, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Consumers are more aware than ever before of how food affects their health and wellness. However, new research among US consumers regarding their consumption of ultra-processed foods from Innova Market Insights, a global leader in market intelligence for the food and beverage industry, shows only 19% of consumers acknowledging that they consume ultra-processed foods daily. Consumers do not always have a precise definition of what they consider ultra-processed food, with 44% of consumers limiting their perception of ultra-processed foods to fast food. This may impact their ability to eliminate ultra-processed foods from their diet, even when many intend to do so.

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Consumers associate certain categories more with ultra-processed foods than others. Ready-made meals are seen as the most ultra-processed category of foods by 27% of consumers, followed by cakes, pastries, sweet goods, and sugar confectionery. Interestingly, Boomers are found to be driving this consumer attitude, whereas Gen Z considers cookies and salty snacks as more ultra-processed. On the other hand, fish and seafood, bottled water, and meat and poultry are seen as the least-processed food categories.

Consumers are concerned about the negative health attributes of ultra-processed foods. Top reasons consumers give for reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods include: “they are bad for my health,” poor nutritional quality, and unnatural ingredients. Obesity, diabetes, high blood sugar levels and other health risks are frequently associated with ultra-processed foods.

Innova’s research further shows that apprehension over ultra-processed foods partially stems from many consumers believing the products are under-regulated. 52% of Boomers agree or strongly agree that ultra-processed foods have insufficient regulations, and a lesser but still substantial 34% of Gen Z feel the same. Additionally, over 50% of Gen Z and Millennials, and over 60% of Gen X and Boomers believe that a scoring system for classifying ultra-processed foods would be useful.

Companies and brands can combat fears of their products being ultra-processed through transparent ingredient lists. Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova Market Insights, explains: “More than half of consumers only want to consume products where they understand the ingredients list. Reducing or eliminating ingredients that are seen as artificial can also help address consumer concerns about ultra-processed foods.” Williams further explains that, besides artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors consumers often associate stabilizers and preservatives with ultra-processed foods.

Innova to Reveal More Survey Results at IFT First Expo and Exclusive Webinar

The IFT FIRST Annual Event & Expo kicks off on July 14, 2024 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Innova Market Insights will be present at booth S1177 to reveal new consumer insights into ultra-processed food trends and other key topics driving innovation in the industry. Innova will share with show attendees its multi-level view of the latest trends, from changing consumer attitudes and category developments to new ingredients and innovative product launches. In-booth presentations include top trends for 2024, hot topics such as weight management, fan favorite flavors, consumer actions towards health, generational differences in values and preferences, and purchase drivers in sugar and sweeteners.

Ahead of the IFT FIRST event, Innova is hosting an exclusive webinar for industry leaders, revealing the latest US consumer attitudes towards ultra-processed foods. To register, Click Here

Press contact

Please direct all press inquiries to

Marielle Orr


Phone: +31 (0) 6 2528 0313

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