Consumers Pare Purchases; Focus On Healthful Foods: Study

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Consumers Pare Purchases; Focus On Healthful Foods: Study


Consumers are buying less food less frequently, looking for value and healthy options, according to What’s in Store 2012, the published trends report from the International Dairy-Deli- Bakery Association™ (IDDBA).

What’s in Store is a secondary research trends report compiled from over 150 credible industry resources.
Consumers’ actions include destocking their pantries and buying less during shopping trips. More than 60 percent of U.S. shopping trips are now classified as immediate, or low-value, instant-need driven trips with an average basket ring of $15, Nielsen reported. Average shopping trips have slipped from 2.2 per week in 2005 to 1.7 in 2011, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Low price was the most important factor to consumers in choosing a primary store, where they spend most of their grocery budgets.

Concurrently, manufacturers of many consumer goods have decreased package sizes, but not prices. The smaller packaging is often labeled as greener, portable and healthier.

Cautious, frugal consumers are still holding on to many of their recession-inspired shopping tactics in order to save money. Two out of three shoppers make lists before shopping and 56 percent read store flyers, SymphonyIRI found.
However, 60 percent of shoppers say they eat out less often, down from 65 percent in 2010. Thirty-eight percent have given up their favorite brands in order to save money, down from 46 percent in 2010. Thirty-six percent of shoppers seek out private label brands to save money, down from 44 percent in 2010, according to SymphonyIRI. But thriftiness continues as value is a prime purchasing motivator.

Valued products are worth the money, but are also high in quality and perceived benefits like convenience, nutrition and health. Wellness and healthy eating are now concepts that extend to the quality of food, defined by fresh, natural, and nutritious ingredients. Consumers expect healthy foods to cost the same as less healthy foods. Eating healthier foods is also seen as a preventive measure to avoid future health care costs. More consumers are altering their diets to include more plant-based foods for reasons of health and environmental concern. More are also becoming flexitarians, who regularly eat meatless meals. There’s growth, too, in veganism. Vegan meals are hot options in many innovative restaurants and the diet is going mainstream with packaged food manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon.

The New Tobacco
In the face of more threatening statistics and outlooks, obesity has been called “the new tobacco.” From 2007-2009, the most recent data available, 34.4 percent of the U.S. population was obese, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. The U.S. is losing $270 billion annually from medical care costs and lower productivity due to obesity, Yahoo News reported. In fact, the World Health Organization said that chronic illnesses related to lack of physical activity, drinking harmful amounts of alcohol, and tobacco use caused more deaths in 2008 (63 percent) than communicable diseases including malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis.

Healthy Home Cooking
Consumers are eating healthier by cooking at home. Those meals are comprised of more local products, like fruits and vegetables .The 2010 Dietary Guidelines released in early 2011 are also prompting consumers to balance calorie intake with calorie usage, as well as to reduce refined grains and salt, and to eat more vegetables. Consumers are also paying more attention to products that have information on their packaging about natural/environmental claims status, such as third-party certifiers for fair trade and non-GMO.

Whole Foods began using a meat labeling program that features a five-step, color-coded labeling system that references the lifestyle of the animal. A rating of five indicates the animal lived on one farm since birth and lived year-round on a pasture with at least 75 percent vegetation, among other conditions. The U.S. market for kosher and halal foods, which correspond to Jewish and Islamic law respectively, is growing. Both customs emphasize humane treatment of animals that will be used for meat.

Consumers believe that organic foods have more nutritional value and taste. The U.S. organic industry grew by 7.7 percent in 2010 to total $28.6 billion, with produce as the top category, the Organic Trade Association reported.
Organic shoppers are buying more goods at mass market retailers and traditional retailers than at natural food stores, following the influx of organic product lines from those retailers. More than two-thirds of shoppers say that organic product selection is important in their food retail store of choice.

Home cooking of ethnic food has taken on the “professionalization of the amateur” cook. Japanese, Caribbean and Thai foods are the most popular ethnic cuisines. The popularity of specialty foods is also on the rise, with a 7.4 percent jump in sales in 2010 to represent 13.1 percent of all retail food sales, according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. Leading new product claims were kosher, all-natural, ethical, environmentally friendly packaging. Cheese and cheese alternatives are the largest specialty foods category with 10.1 percent ($3.23 billion) of retail sales in 2010, the NASFT found.

What's in Store 2012, the Madison,Wis.-based trade association’s 26th edition, is a 200+ page trends report that details consumer and industry trends affecting the dairy case, cheese case, bakery, deli, and foodservice supermarket departments. . The full report is available from IDDBA.