Variety, technology and demographics influence health trends

The fresh perimeter of the grocery store is so diverse that there are many lenses to study the evolution of health and well-being over the decades.

Take fresh produce. For decades, production departments have focused on a basic line of items, said Brian Numainville, director of Retail Feedback Group based in Lake Success, New York. Then things like organics started to grow in popularity, and from there, one of the big differences today from a variety standpoint, Numainville said, is the expanded range of exotic items. and superfoods from around the world that many shoppers are looking for to meet their needs. health and wellness goals.

Another game-changing factor, he added, was the advent of smartphones. Apps now provide all the information you need about specific products and their health benefits, right at your fingertips. And if a shopper needs to find information about a product – to determine, for example, whether a product is gluten-free or to learn more about the ingredients or nutritional information for a specific product – it’s as easy as a web search or an app in the store. .

As food is increasingly viewed as a kind of “medicine,” Numainville said, the grocery store has a real opportunity to be the health and wellness hub for shoppers.

“It all starts with understanding where the buyers of a given location are in terms of health and wellness needs,” he said. “A rural store with an older population may have a very different approach than an urban store with a high percentage of young shoppers or a suburban store with many families with young children.”

From there, it is important to find ways to link messages across the store so that there is consistency and synergy between the different departments of the store, the pharmacy and the dietitians. This means connecting the dots for shoppers, so those looking for healthy foods and options can easily identify them across all store shelves, providing convenient and simple communication in all available vehicles – signage, digital, social and au -of the.

An interesting point of reference, Numainville said, is the International Food Information Council’s 2021 Diet and Health Survey, which found that “in 2016, consumers most identified with negative: l absence of certain components, such as fat and sugar content. In 2021, the definition takes on a more positive tone: 27% say it is defined by the presence of healthy components (such as fruits, vegetables and nutrients) (up from 17%) and 25% say food is simply ‘good for you’ (up from 18%).

“This is a clear indication that shoppers are changing the way they view food, moving away from an absence of items like fat and sugar, towards choices that are moving towards including healthy fresh foods that can be used for health,” he said. “I also think shoppers are turning to functional foods, going beyond just taking vitamin supplements, but connecting with foods that provide health benefits.”

Products grown and sourced from farmers practicing regenerative agriculture practices will continue to gain momentum in the future, combining “good for you” practices with “good for the environment” practices, which is attracting many buyers and will likely resonate strongly with Millennials and Gen Z, Numainville said.

Growing interest in health and nutrition meant that supermarkets had many more SKUs to offer shoppers, but this fragmentation also presented new challenges such as building the right assortment at store level, inventory management and needed fewer checkouts, and even new competitors who found more efficient ways to connect people to the specific products they wanted to meet their respective needs, according to Brick Meets Click, a consultancy based in Barrington, Illinois.

According to Brick Meets Click, merchandising and services such as meal planning and consultations with dietitians are among the creative ways supermarkets can meet the health and wellness needs of their customers.

Eating healthier is hard work, a challenge dietitians know well. Even when working one-on-one with their customers, bringing lasting change to the way people eat remains elusive. It’s hard to change your eating habits even when these lifestyle changes can lead to a better quality of life.

Information is not the problem, according to Brick Meets Click. Nutritional information has never been more accessible and plenty of advice is available on what to eat and what to avoid depending on a person’s health issues.

“The problem is the friction that comes from working to combine all the nutritional information and health facts into decisions about which specific products to buy.”


Health claims make up nine of the top 10 drivers for purchasing Perimeter Fresh Foods (convenience, at #2 on the list, is the only exception):

  • Rich in protein: 37%
  • All-Natural/No Artificial Flavours: 31%
  • Rich in fibre: 28%
  • Low sugar content: 23%
  • Heart health: 22%
  • Immunity boost: 21%
  • Energy Booster: 20%
  • Low sodium content: 19%
  • Improved cognitive/mental health: 18%

During the pandemic, 34% of consumers have increased their purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables – the largest increase of any perimeter department, and 94% of them said they expect these shopping habits to increase. high continue. Millennials (37%) and Gen X (34%) saw the biggest gains.

21% increased their purchases of Clean Label products, the most of any food category measured. 89% expect this behavior to continue.

(Supermarket Scope Study/Cypress Supermarket Shopper)

Maria J. Book