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The Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals

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By Phil Lempert, Supermarket Guru

There is little wonder that 76% of the 1,022 Americans surveyed by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) for their latest Health & Wellness Survey reported that high food prices are having an impact on their purchase behavior. What is interesting is that 91% have ‘noticed’ these price increases (as compared to 83% in 2022); leaving a full 15% of people that have noticed the increases but do not feel that it is making an impact on their decisions on what to purchase at their supermarkets. The survey also points out, once again, that the importance of taste still ranks as the number one purchase driver with 87% of people reporting – an increase of seven percent over 2022. The learning for retailers and retail dietitians from this finding is that people are willing to pay more for better tasting products even when their budget is squeezed.

One concern is that the survey reports that just 62% of people cited ‘healthfulness’ as a key driver; perhaps one reason for this lower-than-expected score is that 68% agreed that they have seen conflicting information about what foods to eat, or avoid, on social media and six in ten agree that this makes them doubt their eating choices. This is a call for action for our retail dietitians to extend their reach on social media and be sure to communicate the real facts – and your credentials to your customers. Only one in ten say that a recommendation or ad from an influencer on social media has been the motivation for their eating pattern or diet — a dismal percentage at best, reinforcing that we need to do a better job in promoting the reach, knowledge, insight and caring of our members to the public.

Only 14% of those surveyed reported their health status as ‘excellent,’ as compared to 2022 and 2021 (those pandemic years) that reported 21% and 19% respectively. Early in the pandemic there were concerns that our shoppers were gravitating towards less than nutritious comfort foods, and we urged shoppers to make better meals at home and produced terrific recipe videos for both adults and their kids. Now it seems as if we need to have a renewed effort. To underscore the need, IFIC’s survey only reports that 43% of these surveyed have heard of the Dietary Guidelines which is up significantly from 35% in 2022.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans surveyed reported that they are very or somewhat stressed, IFIC reports that there is no significant change from 2022, and 51% report that stress has had a negative impact – consuming much less or somewhat less of healthy food and beverages. Just four percent say they consumed much healthier and 13% somewhat healthier food and beverages. Not a great report card. Part of the blame is on higher food prices where according to IFIC, 28% reported that they have made less healthy food and beverage choices as a result.

The IFIC Survey reports that Millennials say they are more concerned about eating healthier than other generations (65% as compared to Gen Z’s 50%, Gen X at 53% and Baby Boomers at 50%) which is great news as this generation represents 71+ million shoppers who are currently 25-40 years old. The demographic breakdown listed in the report does not specifically separate out Millennials – they separate out those 29% of individuals who are 18-34 and 25% who are 35-49 years old. Since the survey included 1,022 respondents, this sample size of Millennials may be too small to portend this finding, hopefully behind the report IFIC has broken out Millennials but just not listed in the report itself.

When asked how often they pay attention to the labels on food and beverages when shopping, 628 online shoppers reported they always or often pay attention to labels (down 52% from 2022). And of the 1,003 shoppers who buy in-store, 55% say they always or often pay attention, which leads us to the IFIC question about the somewhat controversial “healthy” option label as planned by the FDA. IFIC’s survey quantified how much additional the respondents would be willing to pay on a snack food product that carried the FDA label. While the question is interesting without sharing the criteria for the definition of the “healthy” label, it’s hard to actually estimate what the actual consumer behavior would be on the product.

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