By Amanda Rhubizhevsky, MPH
Shopping for Health 2014 is the 22nd in a series of annual surveys of America’s grocery shoppers. Sponsored by Rodale Inc., Prevention, Men’s Health, and Women’s Health magazines; and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), this national survey examines shoppers’ interests and attitudes regarding health and nutrition, efforts to manage health, and the ways health and nutrition concerns play out in purchase decisions at the grocery store. The report brings a practical understanding of the relationship between food shopping and health. Here are the top takeaways you need to know.
Shoppers may be overwhelmed by all of the requirements of a healthy diet. Of those surveyed, 33 percent say they put a lot of effort into healthy eating; although most feel that changing their eating habits is too hard (62%). Since a majority of shoppers say they are overweight by at least a few pounds (55%), changes are needed. Here is a great opportunity to shift the narrative for shoppers, and make healthy eating a simple habit, not something burdensome or that they feel is too difficult.
What healthy foods are shoppers buying? Almost half of shoppers (44%) say they are buying more fresh ingredients now, up from 34 percent two years ago. One-third say they are buying more food based on nutritional components; and 31 percent say they are buying more foods with reduced or no calories/fat/sugar/salt. Half of shoppers say they are now buying fewer processed foods. All of these changes are steps in the right direction, and as more innovative packaged goods with better ingredients continue to populate store shelves this will only get easier for shoppers - and for dietitians to point them in the right direction.
Nearly 60 percent of label readers are focusing on salt/sodium content and sugar/ artificial sweeteners when shopping and choosing foods.
What strategies do shoppers take to eat healthier? The top three approaches to healthier eating include: consuming fewer unhealthy foods (avoiding junk food), preparing and cooking more healthy dishes, and eating out less often.
Another dominant tactic appears to be switching to a healthier version of a familiar food. Specifics: 37 percent of shoppers switched to healthier bread, 30 percent to healthier yogurt, and 26 percent to healthier milk and healthier cold cereal. Salty snacks saw the biggest increase in the last two years with 20 percent of shoppers buying healthier versions, up from 11 percent in 2012. Calling out the “dietitians” choice for the healthier picks of these items is a great way to introduce shoppers to healthier and tasty versions of their shopping list staples.
Health motivators. A majority of shoppers cite a range of incentives that are very or somewhat important in choosing the types of food and drink they usually buy. The top two are improving heart health (72 percent) and having more energy (68 percent). Weight management is another key motivation. Sixty five percent say their food purchase decisions are affected by a desire to lose or maintain weight. These three motivators (heart health, energy, and weight management) are three clear themes retail dietitians can use to promote products year round.
While it seems that most shoppers are trying to eat healthier, there are still obstacles. Despite acknowledging the food-health connection, nearly half say they have control over their health no matter what they eat. Nearly half of shoppers (44 percent) confess they don’t want to give up food they like for their health. The same number says that being motivated to eat healthier is their biggest issue.
Shoppers will always be conflicted between their desire to eat healthier and their ability to consistently follow through. At the end of the day, healthy options need to deliver the right taste and value to permanently change eating habits. Retail dietitians have a special role to play in helping shoppers change their habits for the healthier while still suggesting flavorful options. Clearly shoppers are open to eating healthier if the flavor is there.
To purchase the full report visit www.fmi.org/store.