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Survey: Amid Inflation, Most Americans Call Healthy Food ‘a Luxury’

money, cash, earnings, healthy food

A new survey offers insight into Americans’ current challenges when trying to maintain access to healthy food.

While most people are well aware of the importance of eating healthy food in 2023, recent findings from personal finance tool Credello reveal that 32% of Americans find it very expensive. More importantly, 61.5% of respondents called healthy food “a luxury.”

The research found that eating a healthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day than eating an unhealthy diet. While that might not sound like an eye-opening figure, it nevertheless adds up to $550 for the year to eat a healthy meal plan. For a family of four, that’s an extra $2,200 to budget.

Ethan Mattingly, a registered dietitian, told The Food Institute that grocers can accommodate budget-conscious customers without hurting their bottom line.

“Utilize a local dietitian to create 30-minute meals that incorporate in-season produce,” said Mattingly, the manager of community wellness at The Dairy Alliance. Doing so can “make for satisfied customers, because their local retailer is looking out for them.”

Cost barriers are causing myriad health problems; according to the CDC, 42.4% of American adults are now obese – an increase from 30.5% in 2000.

Credello’s survey of 1,000 people ages 18 through 54 showed that 46.5% of adults find the price of healthy food at least somewhat expensive. The survey’s other key takeaways included the following:

  • Of those who find eating healthy to be expensive, 69.7% deem organic foods to be the most expensive food purchase
  • 7% of that group have gotten stricter with budgeting
  • Over half of those who find healthy food expensive are looking for discounts
  • 2% of those surveyed are ditching name brands in favor of store brands/private label

As inflation persists, 44% of those surveyed said they’re trying to eat less meals but focus on eating more protein and nutrient-dense items when they do eat.

Credello indicated there’s an opportunity for retailers to highlight frozen produce since the freezer section often lends itself to more cost-effective fruits and vegetables for consumers. Meanwhile, one physiologist told FI that supermarkets can assist inflation-weary shoppers while also offloading sale items.

“Stores can offer budget-friendly recipes that are created around their weekly specials,” said Karen Owoc, of VA Palo Alto Health Care. “For convenience, they can bundle the key ingredients with the recipe, making it easy for shoppers to grab and go.”

Editor’s note: to read more about the state of inflation, check out The Food Institute’s archived articles on the topic.

The Food Institute Podcast

The reasons people eat a specific product can vary even in a single day. That begs the question – what are consumers looking for in their food products throughout a day, a week, and a year? Kerry’s Soumya Nair and Shannon Coco joined The Food Institute Podcast to share Kerry’s research on the fluid dynamics of consumer eating.