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Consumers Struggle with, Need Help Eating Well


Although the majority of U.S. grocery shoppers (82 percent) put at least some effort into healthful eating, far fewer (34 percent) put in “a lot” of effort, new research from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Rodale Inc. reveals. The 2016 Shopping for Health analysis released in Chicago at FMI Connect during a panel discussion featuring authorities from food retail, manufacturing and consumer trends on nutrition, lifestyle and health.

Today’s food shoppers understand the important role food choices play in their health, but still struggle to make changes to improve their food selection. The “Shopping for Health” study reveals that half of shoppers consider themselves overweight (51 percent) and desire motivation to help them eat healthfully (48 percent). The research also suggests that parents want to have more family meals each week: While seven in 10 (71 percent) would eat dinner with their kids every night in their ideal world, fewer (57 percent) actually do so, and parents are looking for food retailers to assist them.

“If two-in-three shoppers agree that food choices affect their health, but half say they struggle to find the motivation to eat healthfully, then grocery stores are uniquely positioned to be key partners in health and wellness for the communities they serve,” said Susan Borra, chief health and wellness officer and executive director, FMI.” Foods retailers have the opportunity to help their customers find and distinguish dietary choices, offer weight management solutions and share convenient meal ideas that help feed families.”

“Shopping for Health” examines the various ways in which health and nutritional concerns affect food buying and eating decisions, and measures changes over time; gauges food shoppers’ awareness, interests and attitudes regarding food, health and nutrition; evaluates consumers’ efforts to manage eating and diets; and measures parents’ attitudes and activities regarding meals for children.

“The positive message is that consumers are actively making changes in their diets, and food retailers are poised to pick up on their shoppers’ queues,” Borra said.

Compared to the prior year, three in four shoppers switched to a more healthful version of at least one type of food, with more healthful yogurt (32 percent), milk (27 percent) and bread (26 percent) topping the list. In addition, shoppers are now buying more whole-grain (43 percent), high-fiber (41 percent), multigrain (39 percent), all-natural (38 percent), low-sodium (33 percent) and unprocessed whole foods.

“Many of the findings correlate with some of the broader movements and trends we have seen in the market, namely food as medicine, the importance of eating locally, and the shift from diet food to real, whole foods,” said Melanie Hansche, editor-in-chief of Rodale’s Organic Life, who presented the study findings,. “The growth in organics also reflects the shift to authenticity and provenance that’s part of a bigger story.”

Executives from Unilever, Price Chopper Supermarkets and Rodale joined FMI on the panel. The report is downloadable and available on FMI’s website here.

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