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    Shoppers Focusing on Labels, ‘Unhealthy’ Foods: FMI, Prevention

    Survey panelists cite cost, lack of motivation as chief obstacles

    Shoppers still need help making healthy eating easier, with many citing cost and lack of motivation as common obstacles, so finds top-line data from the 21st Annual Shopping For Health survey released jointly by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Prevention magazine.

    Certain barriers to healthy eating have diminished in the past few years, with shoppers less likely to feel confused about which foods are healthy and which foods are not (down 16 points since 2007). But many shoppers agree they do not eat as healthy as they would like because it “costs too much to eat healthy foods” (62 percent). Sixty percent of shoppers also say it’s too hard to change their eating habits and are still searching for motivation to do so.

    “Shoppers feel cost is a barrier to healthy eating, and need further information to understand that healthy food is not expensive and provides a good value,” says Peter Smith, manager of consumer insights for Rodale Inc., which publishes Prevention. "In addition to education about the benefits of eating healthily, shoppers would benefit from opportunities to sample great-tasting healthy foods to help change their negative taste perceptions.”

    The report also explores how effort put into healthy eating extends into self-perceptions. Adults can somewhat correctly gauge their own weight, but parents do not have accurate perceptions of their children’s weight. Of those surveyed, only 10 percent with children ages 6 to 18 believed any of their children to be overweight. Meanwhile, data from the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that 33 percent of people between the ages of 6 to 19 are actually overweight or obese.

    While the vast majority of parents at least sometimes buy food for their children that is nutritious (88 percent), just as many buy food their children like (91 percent). And while nearly all parents at least sometimes buy nutritious food for their kids, only a little more than one-third of parents say they “always” do (38 percent).

    Shoppers’ top healthy eating strategy involves avoiding food viewed as unhealthy, rather than actively seeking out healthy food items. Consumers report achieving healthy eating by switching to healthier snacks (56 percent), avoiding junk food (62 percent), making conscious efforts not to consume too many calories at once (52 percent), and preparing healthy recipes at home (59 percent).

    “Consumers are increasingly aware of the health-conscious choices offered to them in the grocery aisles,” said Cathy Polley, RPh, VP of health and wellness and executive director of the FMI Foundation. “The food retail industry also provides multiple channels of nutrition education, witnessed in the emergence of in-store dietitians and targeted programs that promote healthy meals.”

    Comparing 2012 and 2011 data, consumers continued the trend of switching to healthier versions of the food they used to eat. Yogurt saw the largest rise, with 34 percent of shoppers opting for a healthier version in the past year (up 9 points from 2011). This is evident in the proliferation of Greek yogurts and probiotic varieties on the market today.

    In comparison with last year, nearly 50 percent of shoppers are buying more whole grain foods. When it comes to specific health-related ingredients, they are more likely to buy labels with “whole grain” (48 percent), “multigrain” (43 percent), “low fat” (34 percent) and “low sodium” (32 percent). The majority of shoppers continue to buy the same amount of food with labels like “vegetarian,” “no fat” and “sugar free.”

    “Shopping for Health is an invaluable source of information for the food industry, as it gives us a glimpse into the lives of consumers,” says Lori Burgess, publisher of Prevention. “Each year, together with FMI, Prevention is able to uncover shoppers’ changing behavior, preferences and concerns as it pertains to food purchasing and preparation. We’re excited to see so many new food items resonating with consumers as they begin to invest more in their health.”

    The Shopping for Health survey of America’s supermarket shoppers examines their interests and attitudes regarding health and nutrition, their efforts to manage diets, and the ways in which health and nutritional concerns play out in buying decisions at the supermarket.

    To access Shopping for Health 2013, visit the FMI Store here.

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