Top healthy shopping behaviors that move products off shelves

Top healthy shopping behaviors that move products off shelves

The Food Marketing Institute in conjunction with Prevention magazine recently released its 20th annual study “Shopping for Health.”  This year's version contains several actionable insights for natural products retailers.

Shoppers have changed a number of things in their purchasing behaviors, which indicate that they are more focused on eating with an eye to nutrition and health. For instance, since 2010:

  • 55 percent of shoppers have switched to whole wheat or whole grain bread
  • 37 percent of shoppers, in addition to buying regular, are also buying whole grain pasta and rice

The data shows that on average shoppers make 2.2 shopping trips per week. For the population as a whole, as you might expect, 72 percent of shoppers do their food shopping at a grocery store with convenience and discount stores also getting visits from more than 40 percent of shoppers. 

In this data, however, 23 percent of the population reports visiting a natural/organic store.  That's almost one out of four shoppers! Natural has a lot of growth opportunities and we are no longer a hidden niche in the marketplace.

Labels are always an interesting topic when looking at shopping habits. Label claims and ingredients, along with their (mis)interpretation can show retailers a lot about the mindset of shoppers. For the sake of brevity, let’s look at just one chart:

Healthy Labels Infographic by FMI, Prevention magazine

Look at how similarly perceived Organic, All Natural and Locally Grown are.  Given that the margin of error for this study is 3 percent, they are all rated identically.

For one thing, this is good for organic, as it has trailed natural in polls for a while, but it still highlights the need and opportunity for consumer education about what organic means and about what natural does (and doesn't) mean.

The primary reason shoppers give for not eating healthy is cost.  (See this infographic for the ultimate comeback to that excuse.)

Cost was a major factor for 31 percent of shoppers and a minor factor for 33 percent. Cost was not a factor for 31 percent of shoppers. These numbers show very little change over the past five years.

I found this surprising, and more than a bit encouraging, that recent economic challenges have not had more of an impact. Only 6 percent of shoppers said that a local store not stocking healthy foods was a major reason for not eating healthy. That is quite a penetration of healthy products into the market.

Here are four ways you can use the report's data to boost sales in your store.

  1. With so many shoppers focused on health, and being confused about the health benefits of items labeled "natural" and "organic," focus your messaging overall on health and wellness.
  2. Maintaining or improving heart health is an important factor for 75 percent of shoppers. Keep your whole store in mind when marketing heart health to shoppers. How many quality supplements, with approved structure/function claims about cardiovascular health, are on your shelves?
  3. Specific product health-related attributes – "whole grain," "more fiber," "multigrain," "low fat," and "low sodium" – are purchased by 75 percent of male shoppers. Two thirds of men consider themselves overweight, but only 25 percent started a diet last year.  Reaching male shoppers is a great opportunity.
  4. Parents are still inclined to focus on health when buying products for their families. Nutrition, in fact, is seen as a more important product attribute than the taste preferences of children, convenience and preparation time. Investments made to make your store “mom-friendly” are ones that will pay off.

Were any of these statistics surprising to you? Share in the comments.

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