Interestingly, readiness to shell out declines with age. Consumers under 20 and millennials 21 to 34 years old are most inclined to pay more.
"While age often dictates a need for foods that contain certain health attributes, it is the youngest consumers who are most willing to back up their sentiments with their wallets," said Susan Dunn, Nielsen's executive vice president of global professional services, in a release. "As Millennials' purchasing power increases, manufacturers and retailers that make the effort to understand and connect with this generation's needs increase their odds of success."
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Nielsen did find a gap between people saying a healthy characteristic is very important and being very willing to pay more for it. The exception to this was organic food.
Respondents also ranked a wide range of health attributes as very important to not important in their buying decisions.
Food with all natural ingredients and those without GMOs ranked as very important to the highest portion of people at about 43 percent each of respondents.
The absence of artificial colors and flavors followed closely as did foods made of veggies and fruits.
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A willingness to shell out for this high-quality food is good news for restaurants and consumer-packaged foods that have been revamping items and investing in new revenue streams, like organics, to appeal to today's customer.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, in particular, has grown at a swift pace by stressing its food integrity and convincing customers that sustainable food is worth the extra money. It is working toward having a GMO-free menu, a goal it's largely met.
"Any restaurant operator with half a brain who has watched Chipotle's success is thinking, 'How can I get some of that success?" said Bob Derrington, a restaurant analyst at Wunderlich Securities.