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A walk down the supermarket aisle can be a daunting task for the 26 million Americans either at risk or currently trying to manage their diabetes, according to findings of a new nationwide survey conducted by the Hartman Group for Diabetic Living magazine.
Consumers polled for the survey believe that finding the right food choices, and easy ways to prepare healthy, diabetic-safe meals for their families, is among their greatest challenges.
“While we've made great strides in helping consumers understand and find alternative food products such as gluten free, low calorie, and certified organic, we have a long way to go to help them find easy solutions in the grocery store to win the battle against diabetes,” says Martha Miller Johnson, editor of Diabetic Living.
To wit, almost two-thirds of consumers simply want more information about foods that can help them manage their condition. “If retailers offered diabetic recipe sections on their websites along with in-store information, they could make a significant difference with consumers seeking to reduce their risk or manage their condition," affirms Miller Johnson.
Mobile apps that provide consumers with sugar content information for fresh foods, such as produce or prepared foods, could further reduce consideration confusion among those at risk or concerned about diabetes, Miller Johnson adds.
Among the survey’s key findings:
• Sixty-one percent of at-risk diabetes consumers say exercise is key to reducing their risk for developing the disease; 52 percent say eating the right foods is essential to reducing their risk.
• Fifty-eight percent of consumers with Type 1 diabetes and 41 percent with pre-diabetes say a smartphone/tablet app that monitors sugar consumption would be helpful.
• Among consumers diagnosed with diabetes, eight out of ten (84 percent) say making cooking fun and enjoyable is an ongoing challenge. A similar amount (81 percent) say making eating fun and enjoyable is an ongoing challenge.
• Two-thirds of people with Type 1 diabetes (67 percent) want more education about food, lifestyle, sugar content, medications, etc., to help them manage their condition.
• Among households that regularly follow the latest news about diabetes, 38 percent are using online sites such as recipe sites to learn more about managing their condition.
• Nearly a third of consumers with pre-diabetes or Type 1 or 2 diabetes say eating at restaurants is a major challenge.
• Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of all consumers would find it helpful to have labels or certification by a manufacturer approving it for diabetes.
• Forty-four percent of consumers with pre-diabetes, and 42 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes say one of their greatest challenges is finding convenient food choices that are easy to prepare or cook that are also healthy.
• Approximately two-thirds of consumers would find it helpful for fresh foods such as fruits to have labels with sugar content/glycemic index.
• Similarly, 59 percent of consumers would find it helpful for retailers to post or make lists available in stores identifying sugar content/glycemic index of common foods.
All told, the Diabetic Living/Hartman Group survey findings strongly suggest that retailers and related constituents have a profound opportunity to help consumers navigate the challenges they face in either reducing their risk for diabetes or managing the disease.To that end, some immediate recommendations to bridge the gap include:
• Apps that provide sugar content for some of the unlabeled fresh food items such as produce and prepared food.
• A need for retailers, manufacturers and the media to focus on ways to help people with diabetes discover new foods with emerging tastes and interesting flavor profiles, such as sriracha.
• Food and recipe websites should expand their recipe offerings on ways to incorporate whole foods and increase fiber consumption.
• Retailers and manufacturers should pursue assembly-line meal solutions that are quick and easy to prepare and incorporate fresh ingredients to serve today’s health-conscious consumers, including those concerned about diabetes.
• Retailers should consider creating a system to identify diabetes-friendly foods or sections of stores with diabetes-friendly foods similar to gluten-free sections already in many supermarkets and retail stores.
• Manufacturers and retailers should create custom sections of their websites that focus exclusively on helping people with diabetes, which can grow their marketplace reach among the core audience, as well as among those at risk for diabetes.
• Manufacturers who market beverages with no artificial sweeteners and/or incorporate natural sweeteners, such as agave and whole fruit juice, have the opportunity to effectively reach this group.
“The good news," notes Miller Johnson, "is that if we combine technology along with in-store information and a diverse range of food offerings, we could make a huge difference in the lives of consumers as well as improving all Americans ability to eat healthier."
Editor's Note: The Diabetes Health Insights study was conducted for Diabetic Living by The Hartman Group during the period of June/July 2013, among a nationally representative sample of 2,207 adult food shoppers aged 18-69 years old who shop for at least some of their households’ food and beverage items. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 2 points at a 95 percent confidence level for all adults and +/- 5.7 points for Type-1 diabetes consumers.