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Nutrition remains an essential factor in consumers’ supermarket decision-making, according to Shopping for Health 2012, the 20th annual study released by Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Prevention magazine, and published by Rodale Inc.
Arlington, Va.-based FMI finds that 32 percent of shoppers report that they buy more foods based on nutritional ingredients, including whole grains, fiber and protein, than they did last year. Consumers are more calorie-conscious than in previous years and want their diets to be the framework for an overall healthy lifestyle. Fifty-five percent of grocery shoppers have switched to whole grain bread, while 33 percent show an interest in their food’s protein content (up 10 points from 2009). Thirty percent have switched to Greek yogurt from the less healthy alternative (up nine points from 2011), while 54 percent recognize the importance of low sodium levels in their foods.
“More and more shoppers are making the switch to foods with benefits,” said Cary Silvers, Prevention’s director of consumer insights. “They are steering away from empty calories and asking, ‘What’s in my food, and how is it good for me?’”
An interest in healthy eating, coupled with the sluggish economy, has led consumers to cook more meals at home, with 57 percent of survey recipients having used a new healthy recipe in the last year (up five points from 2009). Shoppers report using a variety of sources to find healthy recipe ideas, including the Internet (39 percent), cooking shows (37 percent), magazines (34 percent), cookbooks (33 percent), word of mouth (31 percent), recipes featured on labels (26 percent), culinary magazines (12 percent) and supermarket recipes (11 percent).
The financial woes of the 2008 recession elicited money-saving behavior that, for many shoppers, is still in place. Sixty-three percent reported only buying necessities when they shop (down one point from 2011), while 60 percent switched to store brands (up six points from 2011). Purchasing store brands in favor of brand names began as a money-saving tactic for many consumers, but it’s now a common practice because of store brands’ improved quality, labeling and promotion.
“[Shopping for Health 2012] gives us a glimpse into the lives of consumers and the shifts that are taking place at grocery stores and in kitchens throughout the country,” said Lori Burgess, publisher for Emmaus, Pa.-based Prevention.
FMI conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations for food retailers and wholesalers globally.
The Shopping for Health 2012 survey collected responses from 1,471 U.S. shoppers.