Seeking Nutritious Foods Beyond the Store's Perimeter

Better-for-you food choices can be found in every aisle, no matter the department
Nutritious Foods Are No Longer Regulated to Perimeter of Store
Today’s consumers can find healthful and affordable food choices in every aisle.

Food and nutrition play roles in sustaining health, preventing disease and managing chronic conditions that respond to dietary change, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes and celiac disease. Retail dietitians regularly dispel the myth that nutritious foods can be found only on the perimeter of the store. Today’s consumers can find healthful and affordable food choices in every aisle. 

Healthy Crisper Choices 

The latest “State of the Plate” research from the Produce for Better Health Foundation finds that nine out of 10 Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Yet eating enough fruits and vegetables is one of the most important steps to better health. Surprisingly, the average consumer eats roughly one fruit and one vegetable a day, compared with the three vegetable and two fruit servings recommended daily. Remind customers of specific ways to meet this important goal. Fresh-cut fruit and vegetables make the perfect “ready snacks” for kids and adults while also helping to trim prep time, making it easier to include produce as ingredients or side dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Increasingly, branded produce is setting expectations for consistent delivery of unique flavors, levels of crunch or other positive attributes customers seek. Retailers can highlight unique produce cultivars, from Wish Farms Pink-A-Boo Pineberries, Japanese white strawberries cross-bred with American strawberries, offering pineapple flavor notes; to Envy apples, patented Scilate apples — a natural cross between Bradburn and Royal Gala apples; to Sunset Qukes and Sprinkles, baby snacking cucumbers and tiny tomatoes, respectively. When produce departments deliver fresh, reliable and satisfying eating experiences, customers come back for more. 

Healthy Frozen Favorites

Promote simple frozen pairings that make balanced and healthful meals easy to plan and convenient to make. Pair frozen diced mangoes with turkey tacos, frozen blueberries with old-fashioned oats, frozen broccoli with classic mac and cheese, and frozen sweet potato fries with a classic lean whole grain sandwich. Suggest frozen vegetables to add to sheet-pan roasted meals, or steam-in-bag options to serve as sides to slow-cooker or pressure-cooker favorites. Point shoppers to the latest innovations found in the frozen food section, including spa- and restaurant-inspired appetizers, single meals, and meal kits or global specialty dishes featuring bold flavors, trending ingredients and prep methods that appeal to adventurous eaters.

Healthy Pantry Staples 

Many healthful pantry staples can be found in center store, from 100% whole grain pastas, crackers, breads, rice, oats and cereals, to beans, peas, lentils, quinoa, chia, dried or canned fruits and vegetables, nuts and nut butters, popcorn, seeds, 100% juices, cooking oils, canned fish, and more. In addition, there are nutritious meal replacement snack bars and protein powders geared toward keto, Whole30, Paleo, intermittent-fasting, gluten-free and low-carb lifestyles. All the while, sustainably packaged foods with limited ingredients and responsible sourcing are garnering favor among certain shopper demographics. 

Healthy Dairy Staples 

The dairy aisle is home to such nutrition powerhouses as milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs, although not all customers agree. Plant-based versions of these foods are gaining traction with consumers. In addition, whole grain oats typically housed in center store are quickly crossing over to the dairy case in the form of oatmilk and “oat-gurt,” and to the freezer section in the form of oatmilk-based ice cream and frozen novelties.

Healthy Meats, Poultry and Seafood

Lean is the name of the game when it comes to meats and seafood. Educate consumers on the leanest choices and provide cut-specific cooking method guidance that yields tender and juicy results. Plant-based meat alternatives allow meat-loving customers the flexibility to reduce their frequency and quantity of meat intake with a similar eating experience to that of meat.

Also, eating sustainable seafood is recommended twice a week. Research shows that nearly 50% of all consumers are trying to increase seafood consumption, with 26% having purchased seafood for the first time during the pandemic. To fuel this sales momentum, educate consumers about seafood’s nutritional benefits, sustainable options and preferred cooking techniques. Be aware, however, that the number of plant-based seafood alternative companies has tripled since 2019. Emerging cell-cultured, plant-based and fermented seafood products, currently aimed at a narrow niche market, are poised for growth over the next decade.

Healthy Advice

Pharmacists and registered-dietitian nutritionists are teaming up in-store to offer programs and activities geared to address nutrition, health concerns and well-being, emphasizing self-care, preventive care and evolving strategies on how to use food as medicine. Pharmacists can use routine patient interactions at the pharmacy counter to refer individuals who would benefit from meeting with the retail dietitian via live or virtual consultations and classes. 

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