The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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

Skipping on Nutrition to Save

Skipping on Nutrition to Save

Shoppers and Trends

June 28, 2009

Retailers can do more to encourage healthy shopping behaviors when times are tough, according to a recent SupermarketGuru.com Quick Poll. The poll found that consumers would continue to buy healthier, and sometimes pricier foods in this tight economy, if they were offered more discounts.

While an overwhelming majority of consumers surveyed (98%) have a decent understanding of foods that are good for their health, more than half (52%) admit to cutting back on “better for you” food purchases recently for financial reasons. Forty-eight percent of consumers feel badly about having to make the cuts.

By comparison, when the economy is doing better, 82% of consumers are willing to spend on “better for you” foods – even when they cost more – because they make them feel healthier. Eighty-six percent of consumers say that more nutritional foods do make a difference in their daily performance.

Consumers point to a variety of helpful incentives retailers could provide to bring them back to healthier foods in a challenging monetary climate. Ninety percent of consumers would like to see more promotional discounts; 83% would like to see more coupon offerings. Twenty-two percent are interested in larger bulk packages; 18% would be happy to see more single-serve packages. 

Meanwhile, 16% of consumers would be open to more education that teaches the benefits and value of healthier foods. SupermarketGuru says that this finding proves that it is time for food stores to step up and help households struggling through this recession in ways that go beyond promotional savings at the shelf. In-store education is a great place to start, but retailers can do more.

“We urge retailers to commit to their customers in off-the-shelf ways,” says SupermarketGuru. “Extend employment offers to people in their markets where possible. Sponsor job fairs. Mentor some students or recent graduates. Offer low-cost resume printing, phone cards, dry cleaning and banking programs. These things bring more traffic to the store, and build the foundation for a stronger, post recession recovery.”

Although 67% of consumers indicate that they will return to buying the more expensive, “better for you” foods when they feel they can afford them again, retailers should still get creative during the dry period. In fact, many of the same families that sustained stores so well in good times are now looking to retailers to help them provide for their families.

SG suggests that retailers broaden their savings platforms. One idea is to offer “your choice” of several items, or increase the percentage of total discount based on increments in basket size. Now that we know that consumers need encouragement to make the right nutritional choices during a recession, another tactic is to skew value offers to promote more healthful choices.

The pressures on consumers are mounting. The United States unemployment rate stands at a 26-year high, and looks ready to blow through the nine percent level. Since deals don’t always conform to a consumer’s needs in a particular week or month, retailers must be willing to “think deeper” and find new ways to help their shoppers save and stay healthy – until the storm passes.