A US study has found that healthy foods are substantially more expensive than high calorie foods. This is of particular importance given that around 127 million adults in the US are now classified as overweight, which is set to have a severe impact on the economy in the long-term. Yet, consumers are looking to lead healthier lifestyles and affordable, healthy food is therefore in high in demand.
A study conducted at three supermarket chains in Seattle, Washington has reported that high calorie foods are significantly cheaper than low calorie foods. The study, which was carried out by the University of Washington and covered 370 food items, found that low calorie foods have increased in price by almost 20% in the preceding two years. In contrast, high calorie food prices have decreased by around 2% over the same period.
The global health mega-trend has encouraged many consumers to adopt a healthier lifestyle, including a more balanced diet. However, these recent findings suggest that this privilege is confined to the more affluent consumer groups. Other recent studies have also found obesity to be more prevalent in groups of "limited economic means", seemingly backing up the latest findings.
However, The University of Washington survey is certainly not without flaws, as comparing calories in food does not take into consideration the nutrients a food also provides. However, it certainly seems that the more holistic lifestyle that consumers are encouraged to adopt is bound by financial constraints.
This highlights the need for affordable healthy foods, particularly since an estimated 60% of Americans are thought to be obese. Furthermore, the obesity epidemic has been forecast to have catastrophic health and economic effects and the clamor for healthy food at affordable prices is set to grow louder.
The continuing prevalence for convenience could also pose a conflict with the health trend here, as convenience foods are typically associated with unhealthiness. While this offers an opportunity to produce more healthy convenience products, such products are already relatively expensive, and the introduction of healthier convenience foods could lead to even higher prices.
The lack of a genuine middle ground in most markets means that a healthily positioned basic range would have most to gain from this situation. Basic food ranges will need to be reformulated in order to take advantage. However, costs would need to be kept down, limiting any advertising campaigns, in order to allow for a lower price positioning.