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WASHINGTON -- Family health and nutrition concerns are increasingly driving household food purchases in the United States, according to "Shopping for Health 2005: Meeting the Needs of Family Health and Wellness," a new report from the Food Marketing Institute and Prevention magazine.
The annual study additionally found that shoppers are buying more organic products for health reasons, and that they most often buy these goods at supermarkets.
"Shoppers are moving toward healthier diets and looking for guidance in making decisions about food purchases," noted FMI s.v.p. Michael Sansolo in a statement. "This study provides supermarket operators with a blueprint for strengthening customer loyalty by addressing consumer health-and-wellness needs."
Added Richard Alleger, v.p. of Rodale Press, publisher of Prevention: "Today's consumers are more aware of diet and nutrition, and they express a strong desire to live a healthier lifestyle than they do now. This report offers retailers effective strategies for reaching these consumers and helping them with their nutrition goals."
Over 60 percent of shoppers polled thought that their diets could be better (70 percent for shoppers with children). The reasons given for improving their diets included weight loss (42 percent), the preventiuon of later health problems (39 percent), medical advice (30 percent), and management of an existing medical condition (28 percent). Among the reasons those polled offered for not eating more healthfully were time constraints (30 percent), the expense of healthy foods (27 percent), a lack of concern (23 percent), and confusion over which foods are healthy (21 percent).
Living and shopping healthfully is particularly important for households with children. Although two-thirds (67 percent) of shoppers said that they "almost always" buy nutritious food products for their kids, over half (56 percent) admitted that they have a problem making sure their children eat healthfully, and almost three-quarters (72 percent) don't think their children exercise enough.
Another major challenge is serving a healthy meal that the whole family will enjoy. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of shoppers are trying to eat dinner together more often, a number that soars to 50 percent for younger households (ages 28 to 41) and 47 percent for Hispanic and African-American households. The report also reveals that 42 percent of shoppers, including those with children, get ideas for home-cooked dinners while shopping for food. In light of these responses, the report recommends that supermarkets merchandise dinnertime by offering convenient and healthy meal solutions. Other suggestions include:
--Using advertising, in-store marketing and merchandising, Web sites, and loyalty programs to promote products that can help prevent certain medical conditions and contribute to a healthier diet and lifestyle.
--Developing multiproduct promotions that include healthy, easy-to-prepare items with broad appeal, stressing the positive experience of eating together as a family.
--Offering more information and consultation to help guide shopper choices, and offer periodic screenings, tests, and health-focused events such as cooking classes to let shoppers about store's healthy food selection.
--Using more cross-merchandising to boost sales of health-related items such as vitamin supplements, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies.
The report further found that shoppers are purchasing organic foods for perceived health benefits. The reasons given for buying organic included such foods have a better nutritional value, a higher freshness level, and better taste, as well as being better for one's long-term health.
Produce is still the biggest organic category, with dairy products demonstrating the strongest surge in growth. The most popular organic products recently bought by shoppers, according to the study, were produce, at 37 percent; cereals, breads, and pastas, at 25 percent; dairy, at 23 percent; packaged and frozen foods, at 21 percent, eggs, at 18 percent; meat and poultry, at 17 percent; and soups and sauces, at 12 percent.
Organic shoppers are more likely to make buy their food at supermarkets (48 percent), followed by organic/natural food stores (18 percent), supercenters (15 percent), and farmers' markets (8 percent). Of those shoppers who purchase organic foods on a regular basis, most said that the availability of health and nutrition information is very important, and that they will go out of their way to shop at stores that teach them about eating healthfully.
Results from the study will be the focus of a free online seminar, "Enabling the Health/Diet Connection" hosted by Retail Wire (www.retailwire.com/webinars) on Tuesday, April 25, at noon Eastern Time. Besides Sansolo and Alleger, featured presenters will include Bill Bishop, president of Willard Bishop Consulting, and Odonna Mathews, formerly of Giant Foods, LLC, and now v.p. and consumer advisor at Cotandy, Inc.
Information for the report was obtained from telephone surveys of 1,000 adults across the United States. Respondents must have had primary or equally shared responsibility for their household's grocery shopping.
To buy the study, go to the FMI Store at www.fmi.org/store or call (202) 220-0723.