ARLINGTON, Va. — Shoppers rate organic, natural and locally grown foods as being equally healthy, according to the 20th annual Shopping For Health report, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday by Food Marketing Institute and Rodale’s Prevention magazine.
The report, based on a national survey of more 1,400 U.S. grocery shoppers, found that about three-fourths of respondents said they considered organic (77%), all-natural (76%) and local (78%) products to be healthy, very healthy or extremely healthy.
“Shoppers continue to have strong perceptions about these foods, while not knowing exactly how they are defined [or if they are defined],” Cary Silvers, director of consumer insights at Prevention magazine, told SN.
Overall, consumers are increasingly buying foods based on their nutritional components: The survey found that 32% of respondents said they were buying more foods based on nutritional composition, relative to a year ago.
"The emerging trend is shoppers changing recognition of healthy foods to include their nutritional benefits and not simply what they do not contain,” said Silvers. “Whole grains and Greek yogurt are leading the way as shoppers look for them on product packaging, just as they look for zero calorie, no/low salt, low cholesterol, etc."
More than half — 55% — of respondents said they are switching to whole grain bread, and 33% said they are looking for protein on the label, up 10 points since 2009. In addition, 30% said they are switching to Greek yogurt, up nine points compared with a year ago.
In addition, Silvers pointed out that shoppers’ perceptions about processed foods is “turning negative,” with 49% claiming they are buying fewer processed food vs. last year. “While processed foods make up most of the items in their carts, there is a growing sense that they should reduce the amount of processed foods they buy,” he explained.
Lori Burgess, publisher of Prevention magazine, said the Shopping for Health report “is an invaluable source of information for the food industry, as it gives us a glimpse into the lives of consumers and the shifts that are taking place at grocery stores and in kitchens throughout the country.”
Cathy Polley, vice president of heath and wellness at FMI, said the report highlights opportunities for supermarket operators. “Supermarkets really have the opportunity to help shoppers go home with the right solutions,” she said, noting more the majority of consumers are “having trouble putting solutions together for themselves.”
She cited nutritional education opportunities using digital media, as well as in-store opportunities with nutritional labeling, nutritionists and pharmacists.