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5 steps to help customers make better food choices

shopper produce choice

Those involved in the food industry need to KISS more.

It’s an old adage—Keep It Simple Stupid—that holds true even more today in our always-on, constantly connected, information-bombarded society.

Denver-based research firm iModerate Research Technologies learned just how complexity concerns today’s consumers when it comes to making food choices. Its new report “How do functional and fortified foods fit with healthy eating?” succinctly (thank you, iModerate) shares consumer insights and simple takeaways after talking to real people about eating and shopping habits.

“No matter how old, what gender or where they live, consumers believe that they should be ‘eating healthier,’” researchers write in the new report. “It’s often easier for them to think about healthy eating in negative terms: while they don’t always know what a healthy diet should include, they know that it shouldn’t include foods that are high in fat, sugar or ‘unpronounceable’ ingredients. They also have a clear understanding of why these foods are ‘bad;’ … [But] beyond their vague recollection of the elementary school food pyramid and mom’s reminders to ‘eat your vegetables,’ most are not exactly sure what healthy eating entails from a practical standpoint.”

Who can blame them? Cutting through the clutter can be confusing. There’s no shortage of messages… headlines, advertisements, TV commentators telling them what to do with dramatic, bite-sized advice. Even America’s doctor, Dr. Oz, can overwhelm has he lines up product after product on The Dr. Oz Show stage.

Mired in diets du jour—low-carb of varying degrees, low-fat, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and the plain and simple “clean” eating—any book can strike fear into its readers. The thought of meal-planning becomes paralyzing.

Consumers want convenience, comfort, value and, of course, taste, according to iModerate. And natural foods retailers can help.

Here are five of the research firm’s findings and action steps you can take:

1. Recipes for success.

The research firm found that consumers “don’t just want to know that they should eat leafy greens, or that spinach is a nutrient-rich food; they want real information (and practical advice) about how to make Swiss chard a little less difficult to choke down.”

You can help them by offering in-store cooking classes and posting free recipe (simple, please) cards next to produce. The next simplifying step would be to stock additional ingredients together with the produce so customers could easily act on the recipe without losing enthusiasm as they make their way through the store.

2. Speak for the simple choice.

While consumers know that fruits and vegetables are the best choices, iModerate reports that “fortified foods strike consumers as a more attainable, realistic approach to healthy eating.” That’s because all that advertising and those colorful labels tell them so. (Oh, and picking up a package is simple.)

You can help by using shelf talkers, staff, newsletters, social media, etc., to talk for the produce that comes beautifully packaged sans marketing messages by Mother Nature.

3. Tempt their taste buds.

Probably not surprising, the research firm found that customers will opt for food they perceive tastes best, regardless of the relative health benefits.

You can make sure people are tasting things in your store. Share samples at the customer service desk, in the aisles. Hold seasonal taste-test events. Provide pairings for tasting, and easy purchasing, that make the good choice even tastier.

4. Fight fallacies and fears.

Americans use fortification as an excuse for poor eating but also fear the implications of eating such foods, according to iModerate. They wonder whether fortification techniques are safe and whether, in the end, they are getting too much of a good thing when eat such foods.

You can help answer those concerns by showing how the total package makes a difference—calcium-fortified juice packs different punch than Crunch Berries. Further, many don’t know how much of a nutrient is needed in the first place, so iModerate suggests helping customers understand by sharing messages such as “xx% of Americans get their recommended allowance of ______ nutrient, which plays a critical role in ______ function.”

5. Serve need for convenience.

Convenient choices drive purchases as well, whether it’s the single pack of baby carrots or the quick-and-easy packaged dinner.

You can place foods in easy “grab and go” locations, the report suggests.

Remember, keeping it super simple for your customers can mean better service and increased sales.

Do you do any of these in your store? Share in the comments.

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