Consumers Focus On Healthful Foods

IDDBA’s “What’s in Store” report shows customers are looking to eat healthier and are shopping more, but they are also buying less on each trip.

By John Lofstock, Editor.

Consumers are buying less food on each trip to the store, making value that includes healthy choices the crux of their shopping ethos, according to “What’s in Store 2012,” the trends report from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Spending on food and gasoline is rising as both staples become more expensive.

“What’s in Store” is a secondary research trends report compiled from over 150 credible industry resources.

Consumers’ actions include de-stocking their pantries and buying less during shopping trips. More than 60% of U.S. shopping trips are now classified as immediate, or low-value, instant-need driven trips with an average basket ring of $15, Nielsen reported.

Average shopping trips have slipped from 2.2 per week in 2005 to 1.7 in 2011, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Low price was the most important factor to consumers in choosing a primary store, where they spend most of their grocery budgets.

Concurrently, manufacturers of many consumer goods have decreased package sizes, but not prices, to offset rising input costs. The smaller packaging is often labeled as greener, portable, and healthier than larger sizes.

Concerned Consumers
Cautious, frugal consumers are still holding on to many of their recession-inspired shopping tactics in order to save money. Two out of three shoppers make lists before shopping and 56% read store fliers, SymphonyIRI found.

However, 60% of shoppers say they eat out less often, down from 65% in 2010. Thirty-eight percent have given up their favorite brands in order to save money, down from 46% in 2010. Thirty-six percent of shoppers seek out private label brands to save money, down from 44% in 2010, according to SymphonyIRI.

But thriftiness continues as value is a prime purchasing motivator. Valued products are worth the money because they are high in pe

rceived quality and benefits like convenience, nutrition and health. Wellness and healthy eating are now concepts that extend to the quality of food, defined by fresh, natural and nutritious ingredients. Consumers expect healthy foods to cost the same as less healthy foods.

Eating healthier foods is also seen as a preventive measure to avoid future health care costs. More consumers are altering their diets to include more plant-based foods for reasons of health and environmental concern. More are also becoming flexitarians, who regularly eat meatless meals.

There’s growth, too, in veganism, a diet that excludes animal products. Vegan meals are hot options in many innovative restaurants and the diet is going mainstream with packaged food manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon.

Eating Smarter
In the face of more threatening statistics and outlooks, obesity has been called “the new tobacco.” From 2007-2009, the most recent data available, 34.4% of the U.S. population was obese, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. The U.S. is losing $270 billion annually from medical care costs and lower productivity due to obesity, Yahoo News reported.

In fact, the World Health Organization said that chronic illnesses related to lack of physical activity, drinking harmful amounts of alcohol, and tobacco use caused more deaths in 2008 (63%) than communicable diseases including malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.

Consumers are eating healthier by cooking at home. Those meals are comprised of more local products, like fruits and vegetables. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines released in early 2011 are also prompting consumers to balance calorie intake with calorie usage, as well as to reduce refined grains and salt, and to eat more vegetables.

Consumers are also paying more attention to products that have information on their packaging about natural/environmental claims status, such as third-party certifiers for fair trade and non-GMO.

Whole Foods began using a meat labeling program that features a five-step, color-coded labeling system that references the lifestyle of the animal. A rating of five indicates the animal lived on one farm since birth and lived year-round on a pasture with at least 75% vegetation, among other conditions.

The U.S. market for kosher and halal foods, which correspond to Jewish and Islamic law respectively, is growing. Both customs emphasize humane treatment of animals  used for meat.

Consumers believe that organic foods have more nutritional value and taste. The U.S. organic industry grew by 7.7% in 2010 to total $28.6 billion, with produce as the top category, the Organic Trade Association reported.

Organic shoppers are buying more goods at mass market retailers and traditional retailers than at natural food stores, following the influx of organic product lines from those retailers. More than two-thirds of shoppers say that organic product selection is important in their food retail store of choice.

Home cooking of ethnic food has taken on the “professionalization of the amateur” cook. Japanese, Caribbean and Thai foods are the most popular ethnic cuisines. The popularity of specialty foods is also on the rise, with a 7.4% jump in sales in 2010 to represent 13.1% of all retail food sales, according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

Leading new product claims were kosher, all-natural, ethical and environmentally-friendly packaging. Cheese and cheese alternatives are the largest specialty foods category with 10.1% ($3.23 billion) of retail sales in 2010, the NASFT found.

The product claims “natural” and “sustainable,” both commonly associated with healthy and environmentally-friendly attributes, have no industry-wide definition.

Preparing Sandwiches the Way Your Consumers Want Them

Technomic Inc. reports that sandwiches prove to be more successful items on lunch and dinner menus for the past two years.
Sandwiches are a staple food item for both lunch and dinner menus at limited- and full-service restaurants, and more consumers report purchasing sandwiches away from home today compared to two years ago.

“Today’s consumer expects greater customization and broader sandwich options,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. “Trends in portion flexibility, variety, freshness and shareability have come to the forefront of this segment. Shareable options give operators a chance to go beyond the standard menu and try new ethnic sandwiches.”

Tristano said this new trend shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.

Technomic Inc. recently released its full Sandwich Consumer Trend Report that finds the following statistics: Forty-one percent of consumers ages 25-34 want more restaurants to offer mini-sandwiches that can be eaten as a snack or light meal. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches are popular at many convenience retail and restaurant outlets, and more Americans want high-end, high-quality grilled cheese.
Specialty breads such as focaccia, ciabatta and sourdough offer operators and suppliers a stronger avenue for sandwich differentiation.
Gluten-free breads, buns and wrap options are more prevalent at retail outlets.

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