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As achieving and maintaining optimal health and wellness become the goals of an increasing number of Americans, almost half (43 percent) of the consumers polled for Shopping for Health 2010, the 18th annual study from Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Rodale, Inc.’s Prevention magazine, said they’re more aware of calories in the foods they eat than they were two years ago.
Additionally, as technology plays an ever-larger role in U.S. consumers’ lives, one-third of survey respondents said they employ smartphone apps in the creation of grocery lists. Further, over 25 percent of shoppers choose to receive updates from retailers on sales and specials by app, and one-quarter use apps to select healthy products.
“This research is extremely valuable as supermarkets promote the health and wellness of their customers as a central part of their mission,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of Washington-based FMI. “Most important, it tells us what consumers need to learn about eating healthy foods and how we can best help them as company dietitians teach customers how to improve their diets through store tours, cooking classes and other educational programs.”
“America’s calorie conundrum: more attention does not mean more precision,” noted Cary Silvers, director of consumer insights for New York-based Prevention, the No. 1 healthy lifestyle brand in the United States, with a magazine audience of over10.2 million readers as well as the top online health magazine destination, with 2.6 million unique visitors each month, 22 million page views and 1.3 million in newsletter distribution. “While many Americans are paying more attention to calories, they have a long way to go towards knowing how many they consume in an average day. This is the next line of opportunity in calorie management.”
This higher level of concern over calories is borne out in the study by such findings as the one-quarter of shoppers polled who said they currently buy more low- or zero-calorie products than they did last year.
Paying more attention to calories doesn’t translate to greater precision, however, as the majority of survey respondents said they just loosely try to watch how many calories they consume. While 9 percent said they actively count how many calories they consume, 50 percent said they just watch their calories, and 41 percent pay no attention at all.
In fact, the study found that many shoppers greatly underestimate the number of calories they actually eat, although the majority of them think they’re eating the daily recommended amount.
As to whether unhealthy foods should be taxed to reduce consumption and so help lower obesity rates, 25 percent said it’s “OK” to do so. Of those in favor of a tax, fast food garnered the most votes (70 percent) with soda (67 percent) and items containing trans fats (64 percent) close behind.
Shoppers are still eating at home rather than dining out, as reflected by the fact that 24 percent of respondents said they’re spending more at the grocery store than before the economy went south. When shopping, the focus is on savings, as 77 percent said they buy only what they need; 53 percent have stopped buying premium items; 45 percent buy sale items, even if they’re not on their lists; 48 percent switched to a store brand last year.
Increased meal preparation has led shoppers to do more cooking from scratch vs. the previous year (35 percent), tried more new recipes (34 percent), used a slow cooker more (24 percent), vs. the previous year and tried a new healthy recipe in the past year (52 percent).
In their attempts eat healthier, shoppers said they do the following half or more of the time: choose the healthier version of a product (58 percent), switch a product for a better-for-you alternative (52 percent), discontinue buying less healthy products (47 percent), keep buying less healthy products, but eat smaller portions of them (47 percent), buy healthy items not purchased previously (46 percent).
Sodium levels are a top label concern among 66 percent of respondents, tied with fat (66 percent) and paced closely by sugar/artificial sweeteners (65 percent) and calories (60 percent). Compared with 2009, over one-third of shoppers say they’re purchasing items containing more grains (whole grain, 49 percent; multigrain, 40 percent), fiber (39 percent), low fat (37 percent) and low sodium (34 percent).
Shopping for Health 2010 is based on a national online survey of over 1,423 adult shoppers, conducted by Harris Interactive in December 2009 for FMI and Prevention. All respondents had primary or equally shared responsibility for household grocery shopping. To buy the report, visit the FMI Store at www.fmi.org/store/ or call (202) 220-0723.