Americans Want to Eat Healthier, But Price is a Factor

There’s a gap between how consumers want to eat and their spending habits, according to Nielsen.

Americans’ commitment to healthy foods is sporadic. For example, nearly all Americans purchased a low-fat food or beverage this year, but households only do so about twice a month. Similarly, U.S. homes are only buying organic, sugar-free and high-protein foods about once a month.

Still, consumers have bright intentions for the future, presenting manufacturers and retailers with an opportunity to capitalize on this optimism. Two-thirds of Americans say their eating habits changed over the last five years, and three in 10 say they are making more healthy food choices than they were a year ago.

However, there’s no single definition for what constitutes healthy food today. Millennials, in particular, feel healthy eating isn’t just about nutrition and diet. They believe it extends to mental wellness, stress management and saving time and money. Consumers want to buy foods that work “harder” for them and their lifestyles.

Beverages represent an opportunity to fill this gap as they are among the top trending consumable categories today. Items such as value-added water and energy beverages may not be filling when it comes to snacking, but three in 10 Americans say they are more likely to drink beverages as “a way to revive or sustain energy levels.”

Additionally, foods that help the mind as well as the body are on the rise. The top “brain foods” in American stores today include tuna, fresh beef and non-dairy yogurt.

Nevertheless, even foods that save time or improve mental health must be reasonably priced. This is a major barrier in closing the gap between what Americans want to consume and what they end up buying. Consumers will not try what they don’t believe they can afford.

One-third of Americans (33%) say they will prioritize price when it comes to what they consume over the next five years. In addition, 75% of Americans believe it’s important to always get the best price on a product.

Meanwhile, 90% of retailers already have an established health and wellness program and about half have programs for both employees and customers—an 86% increase in health and wellness activity since 2017, according to FMI‘s 2019 Retailer Contributions to Health and Wellness report. Eighty-four percent of stores offer good-for-you products, 69% have healthy recipes and product sampling, 68% have menu labeling and 64% have better-for-you prepared foods.

Eighty-five percent of survey respondents reported employing registered dietitians. One in three grocery stores also have an in-store clinic for shoppers with about half of these clinics owned and operated by a health system organization.

Airlines are also taking note of the growing health and wellness trend. The annual Airline Food Survey from Diet Detective revealed Alaska Airlines and Air Canada tied for having the healthiest in-air food options.

This year, Diet Detective incorporated additional criteria into its overall health score, including total levels of sodium, whether or not the airline offers meals during flights of two hours or more, water safety and environmental initiatives, such as replacing plastic straws, stirrers, and cups inflight with sustainable eco-friendly options. Southwest Airlines was found to be the least healthy, according to the criteria.