Study Shows Consumers Are Cutting Back on Calories

Study Shows Consumers Are Cutting Back on Calories

October 15, 2014

Obesity persists as a major American problem. We all know that, especially retail dietitians working with the public on a daily basis. So what’s a first step in a potential shift: calorie reduction. And music to retail dietitian’s ears, lower-calorie foods are immensely popular. In a recently released, fourth study in a series by The Hudson Institute, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF*), Lower-Calorie Foods and Beverages Fuel Growth at Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation Companies, results demonstrate shoppers are filling up on lower calorie picks.

The study quantifies significant sales gains for the 16 major food and beverage suppliers that belong to HWCF and have so far eliminated 6.4 trillion calories from the US food supply between 2007 and 2012. That’s 78 calories per person per day. This figure is more than 400% above the initial pledge to slash 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.  This fourth research installment was funded by the HWCF.

Key findings over the five-year period ended December 1, 2012, that retail dietitians should know:

  • Lower-calorie products drove 99% of the sales growth – and accounted for most of the sales (52.5%, up from 50.0% in the 2011 study) – at the companies studied.
  • Lower-calorie product sales grew an aggregate $485 million in the period, in stark contrast to the mere $2 million sales gain for higher-calorie products, according to Nielsen Scan Track data.
  • Companies that grew their lower-calorie products raised total sales; those that didn’t had sales decline.  
  • Lower-calorie products comprised 96% of gains in distribution. This implies “companies can drive more sales of lower-calorie products if they push availability in more retail outlets,” the study says. 
  • More lower-calorie food and beverage sales came from in-store promotions, suggesting more emphasis on these items. In-store promoted sales of lower-calorie products advanced by 9%, more than 1.5 times the rate of higher-calorie products.
  • Lower-calorie products are stickier. The net gain of lower-calorie products that stayed on the market after five years was twice that of higher-calorie items (2,207 vs. 1,187), even though more high-calorie versions were introduced (10,779 vs. 9,790).

“Consumers were asking for lower-calorie foods. Once manufacturers listened, growth fireworks went off,” notes SupermarketGuru Phil Lempert.  “Lower-calorie foods hit the trifecta – they taste great now, they often cost the same as other versions, and they help consumers be healthier.” 

The efforts of HWCF have improved the calorie count in foods and increased quality. Retail dietitians can help take this a step further by hosting instore demos of healthier picks, and support the prepared foods section to create more lower calorie, tasty, better for you picks. As outlined in the results of the study above, this is a predictable path to an increased basked size and fantastic ROI.

*HWCF members include: ConAgra Foods, Pepsico, Unilever, General Mills, Campbell’s, Mars, Nestle, Hershey, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Post, Hillshire Brands, Smucker’s, McCormick, Bumble Bee Foods, Kraft and Mondelez International. These companies account for nearly one-quarter of calories consumed in the US and approximately $93 billion in annual US food/beverage sales in grocery, drug and mass outlets, the report states. The Nielsen Scan Track data for FDM did not include Walmart, dollar stores, or warehouse clubs.