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FMI/'Prevention' Study: U.S. Families Taking Charge of Health, But Convenience Is Key Driver

WASHINGTON - American shoppers are taking more responsibility for their health and that of their family, but they want to do more, according to a new white paper from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

Convenience is the major driver behind food purchases made by families with children, according to the white paper, entitled "Healthy Lifestyles: From Parents to Kids." The paper is part of the 2003 Shopping for Health report that will be jointly released by FMI and "Prevention" magazine in October.

"Parents with children in the household are aware of the importance of nutrition, and they recognize that high standards of nutrition are often unmet," said Janice Jones, FMI director of research. "However, with time often in short supply, busy families are challenged to provide ideal meals in terms of nutrition."

Shopping for Health found that 74 percent of households with children and 63 percent of households with no children admit that their diets could be somewhat or a lot healthier. Survey participants offered five primary reasons they are challenged to maintain a healthy diet:

-- Too busy to eat healthily: Many consumers believe that healthy meals must be fixed at home, and they do not have the time to prepare them. One-third of working women and 27 percent of families with children cited this issue.

-- Friends/family/fellow diners don't care: Educating friends and family members about nutrition and eating balanced meals is essential to accomplishing dietary objectives.

-- Healthy fast foods are hard to find: One-third of shoppers claim that they would like to see a greater variety of healthy menu options at fast-food restaurants. This is an even greater concern for time-pressed single parents, with 44 percent making this claim.

-- Healthy foods cost too much: Consumers generally believe that healthier foods cost more than less healthy ones. This is especially true among single parents with children (41 percent), who are more sensitive to food costs because of their dependence on one income.

-- Confusion about health claims: What qualifies a "healthy" product? Consumers remain confused and uncertain about what they should be eating.

The report also finds that the influence of children on food purchases is significant, with approximately two-thirds of parents including children in their food shopping visits almost always or sometimes, and nine out of 10 parents making a purchasing decision specifically because a child likes the item.

When asked about the importance of nutrition and health-related services and products at their grocery store, the majority of all shoppers indicate that having information available or having staff available to answer questions about nutrition is very or somewhat important to them. Shoppers with children rate the importance of these services higher than those without children, and single-parent households are even more interested in these services.

Despite their good intentions, however, few shoppers indicate they have sought out information from store personnel.
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