WASHINGTON, DC — October 15, 2002 — American consumers are increasingly seeking healthier mealtime options and wellness solutions, and the nation’s supermarkets are ready and able to respond to their needs, according to a new report Shopping for Health 2002: Self-Care Perspectives, Volume 1. The study was released today by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and PREVENTION magazine.

“Once again, this survey shows that U.S. shoppers are increasingly making an effort to manage their health through nutrition,” said FMI Director of Research Janice Jones. “Now more than ever, America’s food retailers are well-positioned to respond to consumers needs by providing a broader variety of healthy product selections. In addition, more supermarkets feature in-store pharmacies, increased nutrition counseling, an array of regular in-store health screenings and an abundance of information, both printed materials in the store and on their Web sites.”

“Today’s shoppers realize that a healthy diet can lead to better health, and they are continually seeking opportunities to incorporate nutrition goals into their daily routines,” notes Martha Schumacher, research manager for PREVENTION. “But they are also seeking guidance in identifying healthy solutions that are appropriate for their lifestyles. As the primary source of food for most Americans, supermarkets are in an ideal position to help lead these shoppers in the right direction.”

Nearly one-third (32 percent) of shoppers say the typical supermarket does the best job providing all the products needed to maintain health. A majority (56 percent) say they purchase over-the-counter medications at their primary supermarket, 41 percent purchase vitamin and mineral supplements, 33 percent purchase herbal remedies and 24 percent purchase prescriptions there. However, the report finds that consumers are also using alternative outlets — natural food stores, vitamin and nutrition stores, and discount stores — more often, depending on the perceived strengths of the retailer.

Consumers Seek Healthy Options, But They Must Be Convenient and Inexpensive

American shoppers do think about nutrition, and they are trying to incorporate healthy eating into their daily lives. Nearly half (49 percent) say they’re trying a lot to eat a healthy diet, and an additional 36 percent admit to making some attempt in this regard. Only 15 percent say they’re putting little or no effort toward eating a healthy diet.

However, while shoppers may be trying to eat healthfully, two-thirds admit that their diets could be improved. In fact, 16 percent say their diet could be “a lot” healthier, and 52 percent say it could be “somewhat” healthier. Only 22 percent feel their diet is “healthy enough,” while 10 percent say they have no room for improvement: their diets are “as healthy as they could possibly be.”

According to the shoppers who admit their diets could be healthier, healthy eating habits are difficult to establish because they believe nutritious foods are not convenient and easily available; they are more expensive; and confusion exists about what constitutes a healthy food.
With the increasing speed of everyday life for American consumers, more than a third of shoppers (35 percent) claim that a major reason they don’t eat a healthy diet is because nutritious food options are not available from fast food and take-out restaurants, and preparing healthy meals at home requires too much time. In addition, 21 percent say fellow diners have a negative influence on their diet when eating out.

The cost of healthy eating is another major roadblock for 31 percent of shoppers, and a minor one to another 32 percent. Last year, only a quarter (24 percent) said cost was a major barrier, possibly an indication of shoppers’ recent worries about the economy.

Confusion also figures in some shoppers’ minds: 28 percent say that conflicting information about healthy foods is a major reason their diets are unhealthy, and another 41 percent say this has some affect on their purchasing decisions.

Still, America’s grocery shoppers have a high degree of interest in health — 40 percent actively sought out information about health and nutrition during the past year — and they have a variety of health resources available to them. In fact, the most popular sources are health care professionals (used regularly or sometimes by 69 percent of the information gathers), books (67 percent), magazines (63 percent), friends, family or neighbors (61 percent) and supermarket displays and handouts (51 percent). The information seekers don’t have just one or two favorite sources; on average, they use 5.6 different sources when looking for health information.

Shopper Segmentation

For Shopping for Health 2002, statistical techniques were used to divide shoppers into distinct market segments based on their attitudinal and behavioral differences. The report suggests that retailers consider these segments when developing whole health marketing strategies. The five segments are Integrated, Traditionalists, Strivers, Conflicted, and Unconverted.

  • Integrated: Representing 11 percent of shoppers, this group demonstrates the commitment and discipline necessary to overcome obstacles to healthy eating. They tend to be better educated and somewhat more affluent than the other segments, and they are more likely to be couples or singles without children at home. They are less likely to be overweight and less prone to diabetes.

  • Traditionalists: Representing 19 percent of shoppers, this group tries to eat a healthy diet and generally see a link between diet and health. However, they have only a moderate interest in self-care. They are the oldest segment, with a mean age of 55.1. They are slightly less affluent, but are about average in educational levels. Because of the efforts they do make, this segment is less likely to be overweight and less likely to be affected by high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.

  • Strivers: These shoppers are working to change their eating habits, prompted by health concerns and an interest in self-care. Representing approximately 28 percent of American shoppers, they actively seek out health and nutrition information. Seven of 10 Strivers are women, and nearly three-quarters are married. Half have children in the home. They are younger or middle-aged, with middle to high household incomes. Strivers are more likely to be overweight and affected by cancer and osteoporosis.

  • Conflicted: Representing 30 percent of shoppers, this group lacks the commitment and discipline to take the steps necessary to improve their health. They see a link between diet and health, but they are making only a moderate effort to change their diet and they do not actively seek information about health and nutrition. They are middle-aged, with lower levels of education and income. Half are overweight and they often suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

  • Unconverted: Comprising approximately 12 percent of shoppers, this group has little interest in shopping for health. Because of their youth and/or their genetic make-up, they seem to maintain good health despite a less than healthful diet. Very few in this group actively seek information about health and nutrition. They are younger than most shoppers, with 42 percent aged 18 to 37. They are more likely to be male and single, with average education and income levels. Their health is generally good, with fewer in this group affected by chronic illnesses.

American Supermarkets Respond to Consumer Demands for Healthy Options

The report emphasizes that American supermarkets have a unique opportunity to help all consumer segments develop or enhance healthy eating habits by highlighting the full range of healthy foods available throughout the store. Some examples of how retailers can help:

  • Feature convenient, ready-to-eat, ready-to-prepare entrées as a healthy alternative to eating out.

  • Integrate healthy, natural and organic products with their mainstream counterparts in the regular grocery aisle – while highlighting them with special shelving, signs or shelf tags — to make consumers more aware of healthy alternatives.

  • Conduct in-store sampling events for new healthy products to help customers change their perception that “healthy tastes bad.”

  • Create cross-promotions among the pharmacy, the OTC department and other departments throughout the store to encourage a holistic approach to health management.

  • Offer nutritionist or dietitian counseling services showing consumers how to use the store to eat more healthfully.

  • Stay on top of the latest health information in the media. Build displays around hot topics to attract consumers and incorporate both food and non-food items. Develop signage to communicate how to maintain healthful diets.

Purchasing Information

This report is the first of a three-volume series. The second volume will examine organic and genetically modified foods; the third will examine self-care attitudes and demographics. Both volumes will be released in the next few months.

To purchase Shopping for Health 2002: Self-Care Perspectives, Volume 1($30 FMI members; $63.00 associate members; $75.00 nonmembers), please visit the FMI Store online at www.fmi.org/pub or call 202-220-0725.