The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Helping Shoppers Make Healthy Choices

Helping Shoppers Make Healthy Choices

Shoppers and Trends

November 28, 2010

Sixty-six percent of grocery shoppers are looking for ways to improve their health and wellness, but just half of shoppers feel that their local stores promote healthy living, according to new research from Catalina Marketing. The study with selected shoppers was designed to uncover what shoppers really want and how to design programs that best align with their needs.

Researchers discovered that there are many hurdles for consumers that make it difficult to consume healthy meals. For example, when asked if the employees in their local supermarket were knowledgeable about nutrition, vitamin/nutritional supplements and over-the-counter health remedies, less than one third of consumers said yes. Also, only 25% consider the staff in their local grocery store to be knowledgeable about nutrition. And just over 50% of consumers believe that their store employees are readily available when they need help.

“Retailers have already started to provide in-house nutritionists for shoppers, but based on our study there is more work to be done with store employees,” says Sharon Glass, Group VP of Health and Wellness for Catalina Marketing. “The challenge is providing the proper education to consumers that is specific to their individual health concerns and needs.”

Other hurdles are related to perceptions of cost and taste. Eight in 10 shoppers feel that healthy foods and beverages generally cost more than less healthy options. Just 59% agree that healthy foods and beverages taste good. Thirty-six percent of shoppers say it is hard to shop for healthy meals; 35% say it is difficult to preparehealthy meals. Planning, shopping for and preparing healthy meals are each considered to be difficult by at least one third of shoppers, and young people report higher than average levels of difficulty preparing healthy meals.

On the flip side, 72% of grocery shoppers say that their local supermarket stocks a wide variety of healthful foods and beverages, which means there is quite likely a disconnect between what a store stocks and that store’s ability to provide information that can help consumers manage their personal health concerns. In fact, just 38% of consumers think that their store provides this type of information. With 66% of shoppers interested in improving their health and wellness, this is clearly an area where stores can improve.

The Catalina study provides guidance on how supermarket operators and product marketers can best help their shoppers make healthy choices in nutrition and lifestyle management – and supermarkets are uniquely positioned to meet these goals. But they must do so in a way that combines simplicity with value, according to Glass. 

“The formula for success is reach, plus relevance equals response. Building awareness of events, services and website features through multiple communication channels will help reach a larger audience,” she says.

For example, shoppers in this study were highly receptive to simple ways they could learn about and make helpful choices. Coupons were rated the highest in terms of interest. Shelf labels indentifying healthy products were of interest as well, with sampling coming in as an effective way to overcome negative taste perceptions. Meals that cater to on-the-go consumers were popular too – 69% of shoppers were interested in having their stores stock freshly prepared, healthy meals. In other words, providing messages that cater to shoppers based on their product preferences and personal health concerns, purchase patterns and prescription medications would go a long way toward improving consumer attitudes and healthier shopping behaviors, says Glass.

Incredibly, even with the pervasiveness of the Internet, only 15% of shoppers visit the website of their primary supermarket chain. On the other hand, 80% still read store circulars. That’s why it’s important, says Glass, for stores to communicate with consumers throughout multiple outlets ranging from circulars to direct mail to Internet to in-store signage and check-out messaging.

“We need to provide relevant programs, offers and messages that tailor to shoppers. As these programs are expanded, we will be successful in helping shoppers make healthful choices in every section of the supermarket,” says Glass.