MADISON, Wis. — Consumers' increasing attention to eating healthy foods and to freshness presents a huge opportunity for supermarkets' dairy, deli and bakery departments, a new study commissioned by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association shows.
Sloan Trends President Elizabeth Sloan, whose firm conducted the research for IDDBA, said that while consumers appear to be shying away from strict diet regimens, they also appear to be making a number of small changes in their diets — judiciously choosing what they eat.
Respondents to the survey said they had made significant changes toward purchasing healthier products in just the last three months. For instance, 36% said they're purchasing reduced-fat or non-fat milk more often, up 30% from three months ago. And 38% said they're buying more whole grain dairy bakery products, up 29% from three months ago.
A full 98% of dairy-deli-bakery shoppers said they believe food has a direct effect on their health and well-being, and they put high value on freshness. In fact, 76% said freshness is very important and an additional 13% said it's somewhat important.
“Behind freshness and sell-by date, consumers ranked no hormones/antibiotics and no additives/preservatives the next most important food attributes. In-store signage and product labeling featuring these claims will become increasingly important to customers,” Sloan said.
The findings underscore trends that have been growing and have been offering retailers opportunities all along, IDDBA Executive Director Carol Christison said.
“It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that today's consumers are looking for answers that will help them gain control of their lives, be more active and live longer,” Christison told SN last week.
“We're bombarded with all kinds of information that not only increases our awareness of our health status, but pushes us into taking more responsibility,” she added.
Christison urged retailers to bolster their efforts to offer relevant information to their customers.
“Consumers who want to eat healthy are avid label readers. They want to know what they're putting in their body and they want to know how fresh it is.”
The study also indicated that shoppers who frequent delis and bakeries at least three times per month are more likely than the average shopper to indulge themselves on occasion. Seventy-seven percent admitted that they sometimes eat less healthy foods that they enjoy, but that they also try to balance their diet with healthy options when then do.
“Another of the key findings of the survey includes the importance of ‘free from’ foods in the dairy-deli-bakery areas of the store,” Sloan researchers emphasized.
Indeed, the importance of those attributes overshadowed organic and natural claims. Just 14% of respondents considered natural claims very important, and only 12% said organic claims were very important. That's in contrast to 50% who said “no hormones or antibiotics” claims are very important and 44% who said “no trans fats” claims are very important.
Another important finding was the strength of the market for healthy snacks for kids and healthy products in the dairy and bakery departments. Healthy snacks outsold regular snacks 5 to 1 vs. the prior year, when the ratio was 3 to 1.
The full research report, “Health & Wellness 2008: The Purpose-Driven Consumer,” will be available from IDDBA later in the summer.