Health, wellness influencing food purchasing decisions

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — Family health and nutrition concerns are influencing household food purchases in the

United States, according to a new report from the Food Marketing Institute (F.M.I.) and Prevention magazine, "Shopping for Health 2005: Meeting the Needs of Family Health and Wellness."

The annual study also shows shoppers are buying more organic products for health reasons and they most often purchase these goods from supermarkets.

"Shoppers are moving toward healthier diets and looking for guidance in making decisions about food purchases," said Michael Sansolo, senior vice-president of the F.M.I. "This study provides supermarket operators with a blueprint for strengthening customer loyalty by addressing consumer health and wellness needs."

More than 60% of shoppers surveyed believe their diets could be healthier (70% for shoppers with children). The reasons cited for seeking a healthier diet include: to lose weight (42%), prevent health problems later in life (39%), follow a doctor’s advice (30%) and manage an existing medical condition (28%). The reasons shoppers give for not eating more healthfully include time constraints (30%), the high cost of healthy foods (27%), lack of concern (23%) and conflicting information about what is healthy (21%).

Living and shopping healthfully is of particular importance to families with children. Although two-thirds (67%) of shoppers "almost always" buy nutritious food products for their children, more than half (56%) said they have a problem ensuring their children have a healthy diet, and nearly three-quarters (72%) do not think their children get enough exercise.

Shoppers report concern about the healthfulness of the foods children eat at school. Only 28% report being very satisfied with the nutritional quality of school lunches, but 65% are very satisfied with the nutritional value of lunches brought from home.

Getting a healthy meal on the table that the family can enjoy together is another challenge for families. Thirty-two per cent of shoppers are trying to eat dinner together more often. That number jumps to 50% for younger households (ages 28 to 41) and 47% for Hispanic and African-American households. The study also shows that 42% of shoppers, including those with children, get ideas for home-cooked dinners while food shopping. In light of these combined factors, the report suggests supermarkets merchandise dinnertime by offering convenient and healthy meal solutions.

The report also reveals shoppers are buying organic foods for perceived health benefits. The reasons cited for organic purchases include better nutritional value, higher level of freshness, more beneficial to long-term health and better taste.

Produce remains the strongest organic category, with dairy products showing the strongest growth. The most popular organic products recently purchased by shoppers were: produce 37%; cereals, bread, and pastas 25%; dairy 23%; packaged and frozen foods 21%; eggs 18%; meat and poultry 17%; and soups and sauces 12%.

Organic shoppers are more likely to make their purchases at a supermarket followed by organic/natural food stores, super centers and farmer’s markets. Of those shoppers who regularly buy organic foods, most indicated the availability of health and nutrition information is important, and they will go out of their way to shop at stores that teach them about healthful eating.

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