Natural Foods Merchandiser

More concerned consumers look for health claims on nutrition labels

A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Food Marketing Institute and Prevention Magazine, shows that now more than ever health and weight management concerns are driving purchasing decisions.

In the recent, Shopping for Health survey, which polled 1,423 grocery shoppers, 66 percent said sodium levels are the new top label concern. Tied with that was fat, followed closely by sugar/artificial sweeteners (65 percent) and calories (60 percent). Compared with last year, more than one-third of this year's shoppers said they’re buying products with more grains (whole grain, 49 percent; multigrain, 40 percent) and fiber (39 percent), as well as low-fat (37 percent) and low-sodium (34 percent) products.

“Part of this can be tied to the Michael Pollan effect—eat only foods your grandmother would recognize,” said Kimberly Lord Stewart, author of Eating Between the Lines: The Supermarket Shopper’s Guide to the Truth Behind Food Labels (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007) and editor emeritus for Functional Ingredient magazine, which is NFM's sister publication. Consumers are less interested in pulverized, powered starches with empty calories; instead they want high value nutrition that tastes good.”

Representing 3 percent of the $600 billion total U.S. market for foods and beverages, Rockville, Md. –based market research firm Packaged Facts estimates the market for low sodium and no-sodium products in the U.S. market reached $22 billion in 2009.

“Most consumers recognize the health benefits of foods and beverages beyond basic nutrition. And more importantly, a growing number realize that they can influence their own health by cutting back on processed and packaged foods and by reducing the amount of salt added to foods prepared at home,” said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts.

Technology is also invading the aisles as one-third of shoppers find it appealing to use smart phone applications to create grocery lists, the study found. More than 25 percent of shoppers also opt to get updates from retailers on sales and specials via an “app;” one-quarter of shoppers like the idea of using “apps” to choose healthy items.

“This research is extremely valuable as supermarkets promote the health and wellness of their customers as a central part of their mission,” said Leslie Sarasin, FMI president and CEO in a release. “Most important, it tells us what consumers need to learn about eating healthy foods and how we can best help them improve their diets through store tours, cooking classes and other educational programs.”

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