Going to the grocery store might sound like a simple task, but the reality is that multiple societal factors influence what you put in your cart.  You might have received advice from health professionals on shopping tips to support a balanced diet, various family members and friends might have shared their own insights with you, and of course you also have your own personal preferences and foods you enjoy on a regular basis.  While grocery shopping sounds like a simple feat, as you start shopping and looking at various items, you might begin to question your choices.  And, to complicate matters even further, you might also be shopping on a budget, which can limit what foods you ultimately end up purchasing.

I recall the last time I was in the grocery store debating these same types of questions.  I had seen a commercial for a new product that I was excited to try, but when I looked at the price tag, a moment of internal debate ensued.  Do I really need this?  Will others in my household even try it?  I ended up deciding it wasn’t worth purchasing, but these types of questions make a normal visit to the grocery store increasingly complex.

Indeed, multiple forces are influencing consumers’ food purchasing behavior from a highly complex marketplace to various sources of scientific information.  In 2015, Deloitte conducted a survey among U.S. consumers for the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute to analyze these shifts in consumer food values. The results show that the traditional drivers of the consumer value equation remain intact (taste, price, and convenience), but the number of consumers who consider a series of evolving drivers, such as health & wellness, safety, social impact, experience and technology, as a significant part of the purchase decision has grown substantially.

To help better understand the various drivers affecting consumers’ food purchase decisions, FoodMinds fielded a Food Temperance Survey last year, using Toluna’s social voting community. The survey, which was first fielded in January 2010, shows that there has been a steady shift in perceived responsibility away from the individual and toward other parts of society including food companies, government, health care and education. In fact, the survey showed that 52% of Opinion Leader Shoppers today believe that society (versus the individual) holds primary responsibility for ensuring healthy food choices.*

Further, the survey shows that while Republican Opinion Leader Shoppers are more likely to place responsibility on the individual compared to Democrats, the percent of Republicans focused on individual responsibility dropped from 67 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016.*

a wide range of factors are at play when it comes to choices, decisions and behaviors at the grocery store

As the research indicates, a wide range of factors are at play when it comes to choices, decisions and behaviors at the grocery store.  As a registered dietitian, I feel an inherent responsibility to keep my pulse on this ever-changing environment, as navigating shifts in consumer sentiment toward food is essential to being an effective health care professional. Finally, finding common ground (with good science) in nutrition interventions and policies is essential to support public health and encourage healthy, balanced eating behaviors and food choices across the globe.

*FoodMinds Food Temperance Survey of Opinion Leader Shoppers. 2016.