NEW ORLEANS — Consumers want the food industry to come alongside them and encourage them to maintain a healthy lifestyle, Mary Young, executive vice-president of food and nutrition communications at Edelman, said at the Institute of Food Technologist meeting on June 14.

“(Consumers) want the food industry to be a partner with them in their quest for a healthy lifestyle,” Ms. Young said. “They want a partner, not a dictator.”

Although 95% of consumers believe the foods they buy contribute to their health and wellness, Ms. Young said 60% of consumers believe food production is on the wrong track. Consumers define unhealthy foods as those with additives, chemicals added or altered in some way.

Additionally, 59% of Americans said businesses should be engaged in improving public health, and 91% of consumers believe supermarkets should be engaged in health and wellness initiatives.

Younger consumers ages 16 to 31 are interested in healthier ingredients and honesty and transparency in labeling. She said unhealthy foods and deceptive ads will drive consumers away. In addition, nearly one in four of these consumers agree that food makes a statement about who they are.

She said for consumers food is more than nourishment — it’s an identity, a health badge, an emotion, a celebration and more. Overall, she said consumers have a complex relationship with food as it represents health, culture and heritage, memories and celebrations, a human connection, emotions, expressions of love and more.

Kantha Shelke with Corvus Blue said successful products are found at the intersection of health, indulgence and convenience. She also said manufacturers should be encouraging protein, iron, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C, and E while limiting saturated fat, added sugar and sodium.