Shoppers Paying More Attention to Nutrition, Study Shows

Nutrition continues to drive decision making in supermarket aisles across the country, according to Shopping for Health 2012, the 20th in a yearly study released July 18, by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Prevention, and published by Rodale Inc.

For the past few years, shoppers have recognized and increased their purchases of foods containing desirable ingredients including whole grains, fiber, and protein. That number continues to grow, with 32 percent of shoppers reporting that they are buying more foods based on nutritional components versus last year.

Customers are attempting to make more of their calories count for better overall health, with 55 percent of shoppers switching to whole grain bread, 33 percent showing an interest in protein on the label (up 10 points since 2009), and 30 percent switching to Greek yogurt (up 9 points versus 2011).

“More and more shoppers are making the switch to foods with benefits. They are steering away from empty calories and asking, ‘what’s in my food, and how is it good for me?’” says Cary Silvers, Director of Consumer Insights forPrevention.

The desire to eat healthier and the stagnant economy appear to be two drivers that have led consumers to do more cooking at home, with 57 percent of people reporting having tried a new healthy recipe in the last year, an increase of five points from 2009. Shoppers recognize and use a variety of reliable sources when it comes to healthy meal ideas, with shoppers finding recipes through a variety of sources including the Internet (39 percent), cooking shows (37 percent), magazines (34 percent), cookbooks (33 percent), word-of-mouth (31 percent), recipes on labels (26 percent), culinary magazines (12 percent), and supermarket recipes (11 percent).

With the economy still in a slow growth mode, many of the tactics shoppers started using in 2008 are still in place, with 63 percent of shoppers reported only buying what they need (down 1 point from last year), and 60 percent switching to store brands (up 6 points from last year). While switching to store brands began as a money-saving tactic, improvements to quality, labeling and promotion have strengthened their position versus national brands.

Consumers are aware of their options at the grocery store, as 54 percent of respondents recognized the effort of food manufacturers to reduce sodium level in their foods. Sixty-seven percent of shoppers say that sodium is important to them, with 32 percent of shoppers saying that they are buying more low-sodium products versus 2011.

“Our food retail members are witness to these trends on a daily basis,” said Cathy Polley, RPh, vice president of health and wellness and executive director of the FMI Foundation. “Just as consumers are increasingly aware of the health-conscious opportunities afforded to them in the grocery aisles, FMI is also renewing its emphasis through its advancements in health and nutrition research and education with its Foundation.”

Publisher of Prevention, Lori Burgess, noted, “Shopping for Health is an invaluable source of information for the food industry, as it gives us a glimpse into the lives of consumers and the shifts that are taking place at grocery stores and in kitchens throughout the country. Each year, together with FMI,Prevention is able to uncover shoppers’ changing behavior, preferences and concerns as it pertains to food purchasing and preparation.”

The Shopping for Health survey of America’s supermarket shoppers examines their interests and attitudes regarding health and nutrition, their efforts to manage diets, and the ways in which health and nutritional concerns play out in buying decisions at the supermarket. To purchase Shopping for Health 2012, visit the FMI Store at or call 202.220.0723.

Methodology: The data for Shopping for Health 2012 were collected through an online survey, conducted between November 19 and December 1, 2011, among a nationally representative sample of 1,471 U.S. shoppers. The margin of error associated with the survey is 3.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The respondent must have met the following requirements to participate in the survey:

  • Reside in the U.S.
  • A minimum of 18 years of age.
  • Does 50 percent or more of the grocery shopping for their household.
  • Have shopped for groceries in the past month.