Consumers’ Concept of ‘Healthy’ Varies

It’s been duly noted that consumers, especially at a time of fresh starts at the beginning of the calendar year, are interested in better-for-you foods and beverages. On that, many can agree.

What is more elusive, however, is the definition of “healthy” when it comes right down to the consumers’ individual food choices. Deli and prepared food departments that offer fresh choices for health and nutrition-conscious consumers might want to take a cue from new research on the matter from Technomic.

According to Technomic’s recently-released Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, while consumers are becoming more interested in health and wellness, the connotation of healthy eating varies, often by occasion.

"More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important," said VP Darren Tristano. "However, there's a shift happening in terms of what actually defines healthy for them. We're seeing more consumers gravitate toward health-halo claims—such as local, natural and organic, as well as whole-wheat and free-range.”

Although the Technomic study focused on restaurant consumption, the findings have implications for grocery operators, given the fact that so many in-store deli and prepared food offerings are consumed on the go, away from home or in lieu of home-prepared meals. Among those findings is the fact that two out of three consumers – 64% of those polled – agree that it’s important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition. What’s more, 38% of consumers, compared to 33% three years ago, say they are more likely to visit places with healthy menu options, even if they don’t end up ordering such options.

Consumers are also expanding their definition of healthy foods to include local, organic, natural or sustainable foods. The Technomic survey found that more people are eating those types of food on a weekly basis, too.

Finally, despite a longtime emphasis on shunning certain types of food – “low” this or “reduced” that – consumers report that they are instead adding more fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their diets as a way to provide true balance. The embrace of balance and moderation as more than a concept means that consumer can have a moderate slice of cake at a Super Bowl party and eat it, too – as long as they are eating something fresh and healthy along with it.


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