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Shoppers Choosing Local Over Organics in Produce, FMI/Prevention Survey Finds

This year, shoppers are opting to choose locally grown produce over organic alternatives, according to the 16th annual Shopping for Health 2008 survey released yesterday by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Prevention at the FMI Show in Las Vegas.

When cost is the same, 50 percent of consumers say they would choose locally grown produce vs. organic (28 percent). Only 9 percent would choose a store-packaged alternative.

"Shoppers' new interest in locally grown food reflects their strong desire to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables," said Cary Silvers, director of consumer insights for Rodale, the publisher of Prevention, who presented the findings at the FMI Show. "The battle between organic and locally grown represents who shoppers believe can deliver the freshest produce."

Meanwhile consumers who once purchased organic but no longer do cited the following reasons for their change in behavior:

-- 70 percent say it's too expensive.

-- 39 percent cite the lack of perceivable difference between organic and nonorganic foods.

-- 33 percent are concerned about the safety of organic produce.

In addition to the findings on local and organic trends, the study revealed some of the "product swaps" consumers make to try and eat healthier. The swaps that consumers say they would make include:

-- Healthier alternatives in the same product category, for example, those with less fat or fewer calories. Consumers reported they would purchase healthier salad dressings (41 percent), potato chips (36 percent), and ice cream (27 percent).

-- 100-calorie packs of cookies: 23 percent said they would purchase this over any other alternative, but 20 percent of cookie-eaters would not change their habits at all.

--Drink less soda:  29 percent of consumers choose this alternative, but 28 percent would not change their consumption.

Other findings from the report include the following:

-- More than one in three shoppers (38 percent) said they had started a diet in 2007.

-- Two-thirds (66 percent) of these shoppers were still on a diet by November 2007.

-- More than half of dieters (57 percent) said they are on no specific diet regimen; theare merely watching their calories.

The 2008 Shopping for Health survey of America's supermarket shoppers is the 16th in an annual series conducted by FMI and Prevention with the support of Men's Health and Women's Health magazines.
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