Wondering whether eating at home or eating out is better for your health? Well, according to a new national survey released on December 6 by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Prevention magazine there is a strong correlation between consumers who try the hardest to eat healthfully and those who eat dinner at home nearly every day. The topline is that supermarkets have a real opportunity to build a strong relationship by helping shoppers be healthier by offering what we continue to call "meal solutions."
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Our global health report card underscores the need for healthier eating: The World Health Organization predicts over 350 million cases of diabetes by 2030 and reports that last year 11 million people were diagnosed with cancer, which resulted in seven million deaths.
Here in the U.S., 31 percent of adults are obese, 34 percent are overweight and just 34 percent are at a healthy weight. According to the American Cancer Society, "anywhere between 14 to 16 percent of cancer deaths are thought to be related to excess weight." The report found that Americans continue to strive to eat more nutritious diets: 57 percent are trying "a lot" and 23 percent of parents report having an overweight child.
These consumers also tend to be "free agents," meaning they are trying to manage diets on their own, which makes them more susceptible to fads. Among those who diet, 59 percent say they are just "calorie watching or watching what they eat," 11 percent follow a low-carb diet, and nine percent follow the Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers programs.
All which points to a huge supermarket opportunity to not only be positioned as the good source for healthy food options, but also the key to turning around these serious public health concerns.
The FMI/Rodale report found that nearly three in four shoppers (71 percent) believe the food they eat at home is healthier than meals consumed out. More than nine in 10 consumers prepare at least one home-cooked dinner from scratch every week, and more than half (68 percent) do it almost daily. But here’s where we in the food industry need to wake up. Relatively few shoppers believe that grocery stores offer "many" healthy options in frozen entrees (16 percent), packaged foods (8 percent), or even ready-to-cook (10 percent) and prepared foods (12 percent).
What’s the solution?
And how can food retailers turn this around? According to the surveyed shoppers they feltthat supermarkets could help them by:
- Posting signs indicating healthy food choices (73 percent)
- Posting signs and information about disease management (66 percent)
- Employing staff who can answer nutrition questions (62 percent)
- Offering weight loss and diet information (56 percent)
- Conducting cooking classes to teach consumers about healthy meals (49 percent)
The Shopping for Health 2006: Making Healthy Eating Easier survey is the latest of annual surveys of America’s supermarket shoppers conducted by FMI and Rodale Inc.’s Prevention magazine with support from Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines.
Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at SuperMarketGuru.com.