The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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

Nutrition's Influence on Shoppers

Nutrition's Influence on Shoppers

Shoppers and Trends

February 22, 2009

The majority (66%) of shoppers are satisfied with the nutritional and health information provided by their primary foods stores, according to research conducted by the N.G.A. and SupermarketGuru, and underwritten by ConAgra Foods. The 2009 Consumer Panel Survey detailed the purchase influences, eating habits and nutritional concerns of 2,145 consumers between November 2008 and January 2009.
When rating the importance of supermarket features, three in ten consumers (31%) say the availability of nutrition and health information is 'very important'; another four in ten (41%) say it is 'somewhat important.' Main consumer concerns surrounding the healthfulness of the foods they eat include 'fat content' (14%), 'chemical additives' (11%), 'salt/sodium content' (9%), 'sugar content' (7%) and 'calories' (7%).
Consumers are increasingly critical of their own diets, however, and diet disapproval extends to both the foods consumers eat at home and the foods they eat away from home. In fact, 68% of shoppers are unhappy with the healthfulness of their meals; 54% feel the way they eat 'could be a lot healthier.'
Along those same lines, the actual search for nutrition information has become less of a priority. Perhaps that's because trust ratings for nutrition information are down across the board. Nutritionists and dietitians rank third at 12% for most trustworthy source; the internet and physicians rank first and second, respectively, at 26 and 17 percent.
While 32% of consumers learn about nutrition and health issues from their grocery store, a much larger number finds nutrition and health information on the internet (70%) or in magazines (67%). Consumers who 'almost always' look at health claims (36%) are down a significant seven points from the 43% finding in last year's survey; those who 'hardly ever/never' look at health claims rose by five points to 24%. As more supermarkets seek to decrease operational costs, SupermarketGuru predicts that many of these in-store nutrition services will be eliminated and therefore produce even lower ratings in future surveys.
Still, most consumers say they try to make healthful choices about the foods they eat, and shop accordingly. To improve diet, the vast majority of shoppers (83%) are eating 'more fruits and vegetables,' an activity that led the pack a year ago, when the level was two points higher (85%). People are also eating 'less junk food/less snack food' (64%), 'more whole grains' (54%) and 'more fresh foods (54%). Forty-seven percent of respondents are looking for 'less sugar' and 'more fiber.'
That consumers are pleased with store nutrition offerings is good; that they are losing interest in this important subject is a surprising finding worthy of examination. On the surface, it seems that supermarkets are meeting the needs of consumers. In light of the findings regarding consumer interests, though, it may be time to set the bar higher. SupermarketGuru says that stores have the capacity to drive healthy lifestyle changes in their shoppers - but only if they stay relevant.
"Consumers are clearly interested in getting healthier, yet they are looking for more motivation," says SG. "Retailers should make an effort to both simplify and energize their nutrition programs to inspire, educate and inform consumers."