Consumers seek foods with nutritional benefits

Nutrition continues to drive decision making in supermarket aisles across the country, according to Shopping for Health 2012, the 20th yearly study of 1,471 U.S. shoppers conducted by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Prevention, and published by Rodale Inc.


For the past few years, shoppers have recognized and increased their purchases of foods containing desirable ingredients including whole grains, fiber, and protein. That number continues to grow, with 32 percent of shoppers reporting that they are buying more foods based on nutritional components versus last year.


Consumers are attempting to make more of their calories count for better overall health, with 55 percent switching to whole grain bread, 33 percent showing an interest in protein on the label (up 10 points since 2009), and 30 percent switching to Greek yogurt (up 9 points versus 2011).


"More and more shoppers are making the switch to foods with benefits. They are steering away from empty calories and asking, 'what's in my food, and how is it good for me?'" says Cary Silvers, director of consumer insights for Prevention.


The desire to eat healthier and the stagnant economy appear to be two drivers that have led consumers to do more cooking at home, with 57 percent having tried a new healthy recipe in the last year, an increase of five points from 2009. Shoppers recognize and use a variety of reliable sources when it comes to healthy meal ideas, with shoppers finding recipes through a variety of sources including the Internet (39 percent), cooking shows (37 percent), magazines (34 percent), cookbooks (33 percent), word-of-mouth (31 percent), recipes on labels (26 percent), culinary magazines (12 percent), and supermarket recipes (11 percent).


With the economy still in a slow growth mode, many of the tactics shoppers started using in 2008 are still in place, with 63 percent of shoppers only buying what they need (down 1 point from last year), and 60 percent switching to store brands (up 6 points from last year). While switching to store brands began as a money-saving tactic, improvements to quality, labeling and promotion have strengthened their position versus national brands.


Consumers are aware of their options at the grocery store, as 54 percent of respondents recognize the effort of food manufacturers to reduce sodium level in their foods. Sixty-seven percent of shoppers say that sodium is important to them, with 32 percent of shoppers saying that they are buying more low-sodium products versus 2011.