Trending Toward Health and Wellness

In the annual Shopping for Health survey, FMI and Prevention magazine explore changes in shoppers' behavior, preferences, and concerns related to food purchasing and preparation. The 22nd annual "Shopping for Health" survey reports on shoppers' interests and attitudes regarding health and nutrition, their efforts to manage health, and the ways health concerns affect decisions at the supermarket. Shopping for Health 2014 examines the multiple strategies shoppers use to achieve healthy eating, how local and organic foods' influence on grocery shoppers, and reviews parents' attitudes and activities around planning meals for family and children.

Shoppers recognize the connection between food and health, but the requirements of a healthy diet can easily overwhelm them. Two in three shoppers agree that the food they eat affects their health and say that they care about what goes into their food. Eighty percent of shoppers put some effort into eating a healthy diet, but just 33 percent make "a lot" of effort. The trend, however, is toward making small, incremental changes to impact health. Small changes include trying new healthy recipes (58 percent), buying foods with reduced or no calories/fat/sugar/salt (31 percent), and switching to healthier versions of familiar foods. At least 20 percent of shoppers switched to healthier versions of 21 types of foods in the survey.

With half of shoppers now buying fewer processed foods and almost as many buying more fresh ingredients, the trend toward local food should come as no surprise to the food retail industry. The trend leaning toward locally produced food has grown significantly in recent years, with more than two-thirds of shoppers reporting to have purchased local foods in the last year. Reasons shoppers cite for buying local include: the product is fresh or in season, and they like supporting local farmers. In contrast, organic influence has plateaued in recent years. While organic foods continue to be found in almost half of shopping carts, this purchase rate has remained relatively stable since 2008.

Parents face unique challenges when shopping for health for their families. Virtually all parents buy food products that are nutritious for their children at least sometimes, but less than half do so all of the time. One barrier is the child's own preference. Most parents say they buy products their children like as well as products that are nutritious. Cost is also a barrier for shoppers with children. Parents are more likely than the average shopper to say money is a reason they do not eat as healthy as they would like. As a result, parents are less likely than the average shopper to purchase fresh, in favor of buying canned or frozen products that make their meal dollars stretch.

Shopping for Health 2014 expands upon these trends and other topics that are steering the food retail industry toward health and wellness. To access the report, visit the FMI Store at

Cathy Polley is executive director, FMI Foundation, and vice president, FMI Health & Wellness. Reach her at [email protected].