Co-authored by Emily Valentine

Among the most outdated and incorrect nutrition advice out there (and there is a lot), is that you should only “shop the perimeter” of the grocery store. Let me repeat.

The center of your supermarket should not be cast aside like your mother’s old flip phone. Why? Because when you limit yourself to the perimeter, you are missing out on a world of convenient options that help you get a healthy meal on the table and are much easier on your wallet than ordering takeout. In addition to the myriad canned, frozen, dried, juiced and freeze-dried fruit and veggie options residing in the middle aisles, each day, there are more healthful, polycultural, and did I mention convenient products to choose from.

What’s going on?

You can thank the millennials. As more and more of Gen Y (and its $1.3 trillion in annual spending) enters the child-rearing years with a penchant for unprocessed, all-natural, non-wasteful foods and two parents working outside the home, that means more motivation but less time to prepare healthy, efficient meals. Brands are taking notice.

In early 2018, both Nielsen and Euromonitor reported growth in the frozen food category for the first time in five years, an indicator that frozen food brands have successfully managed to meet millennials where they are.Click To Tweet

While all ages said they were purchasing more, 43% of millennials said they had bought more frozen items than the previous year, with convenience as a main driver. [Bloomberg]

Canned fruits and vegetables can help environmentally conscious millennials reduce the amount of perishable fruits and vegetables they throw away. Research shows that even some canned produce may even be more beneficial than their fresh counterparts. For example, canned spinach and tomatoes, exhibit less nutrient loss and food waste than fresh, especially calcium, magnesium, protein, iron and antioxidants. Canned kidney beans, a nutritional and cost-effective protein source, exhibit less nutrient waste than dried. [Sands C, Boz Z. Nutrient Loss as a Function of Packaging, Processing and Food Waste for Tomatoes, Peaches, Kidney Beans, and Spinach. Research not yet published, CMI can provide upon request.]

What’s driving this?

With savvy longstanding brands and energetic upstarts at the helm, the center-store market has really upped its game. Just peruse the aisles and you will see more packaging that alludes to farm freshness, global flavors, health and vitality.

Then there are companies like North Carolina-based Seal the Seasons finding ways to use center store products to address unmet consumer needs. Seal the Seasons is bringing flash frozen locally-grown produce to those who have a strong desire to support local growers, minimize crop waste AND enjoy the convenience and year-round availability of frozen.

Consumers desires for healthy, on-the-go snacking has led to a boom in the dried fruit category.  Startup brands like Fruit Bliss and  Peeled Snacks  are helping to fill a void in an aisle typically filled with salty snacks and not a great deal of nutrition. This is especially appealing for millennial parents, who will spend more for quality ingredients.

Millennials are driving the boom of nutritious and innovative options at the center of the store – even if they aren’t even going to the store and ordering their groceries online. As an important reminder to us – remember to check your facts before digesting any advice out there.

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