Healthy food trend shows no sign of slowing
By: Phil Sneed
Food trends come and go, but some shifts represent a lasting shift in consumer tastes. Over the past few years, healthy food retailers have risen to prominence as consumers take a greater interest in produce and other healthy eating options. Unlike other food trends, the shift toward organic and healthy options seems like it will last far into the future. Greater interest in these products means the infrastructure that transports produce and other foods to market will need to increase capacity to prepare for the continued rise in demand.
A trend toward health
Americans are commonly stereotyped as fast-food loving and overweight, but things have moved in a more health-conscious direction in the last few years. In a study released last year that analyzed U.S. eating habits between 2005 and 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered a range of indicators that demonstrated Americans were more concerned about the health implications of the food they ate.
Notably, just under 50 percent of adults who were working age or older said they used the nutrition information printed on foods to inform their purchasing decisions. That represented an improvement from the past, and demonstrated people's taste for eating healthily.
In addition to being more aware of individual foods' relative health benefits, individuals were more likely to eat at home and prepare their own food. This had a massive impact on how healthy people's meals were, and corresponded with an increase in the number of people who felt their diets had the ability to change their body weight. People feel more confident preparing their own food and have a better understanding of how to improve their health. This means retailers will need to stock more produce and other healthy foods that facilitate people making their own meals.
The shift toward healthier options and an increased focus on preparing meals has been a boon for food retailers like Whole Foods and Sprouts Farmers Market, which specialize in organic options and fresh produce. While these companies have grown rapidly as the demand for healthy and organic foods increases, the chains' rate of expansion has slowed in the past quarter. Daily Finance reported Whole Foods' sales only grew by 3.6 percent at the average store last quarter. That let down many investors, but it doesn't indicate an end to the interest in healthy foods. Instead, the market for organic produce and healthy options could actually expand further at other price points.
A slowdown in the growth at its existing stores has actually inspired Whole Foods to expand with a new chain targeted at millennial buyers who may not be able to afford the elevated prices at current Whole Foods stores. Bloomberg reported the new stores will be smaller and offer less expensive healthy food choices. Beyond that, details are scarce, but the move signals continued confidence in consumers' appetite for health-conscious choices.
The need to transport foods to market
With the market for organic produce set to expand further, the need to transport produce to market quickly has surged. Simultaneously, people have come to expect that they will be able to buy certain types of produce year-round, regardless of the traditional harvest and growing seasons for that product. Bon Appétit reported on the shifts in avocado production, imports and transportation that made it possible for U.S. consumers to enjoy the fruit during the dead of winter. As organic produce retailers move their wares to lower price points, the demand for these products will necessitate improved shipping to accommodate demand.