retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Nielsen Company is out with research saying that while “consumers in the U.S. might be trimming the fat from their budgets and diets, but contrary to predictions, they continue to demonstrate a healthy appetite for foods featuring health and wellness claims. From alpha (antioxidants) to omega (omega 3 fatty acids), foods touting the kind of heart-healthy, joint-buffering, free radical extinguishing properties that appeal to aging Baby Boomers dominate the rapid growth list.

“The big winners on the healthy eating front, each posting double digit growth, were products with label claims for omega, high fructose corn syrup free, antioxidants, gluten-free, probiotic, calcium, fiber and low glycemic and no salt sodium added.”

In addition, “Other popular claims holding their own included products labeled ‘natural,’ with $22.8 billion in annual sales representing 4% growth vs. 2008. The natural claim demonstrated real star power, outselling organics by more than a 4:1 margin in food, drug and mass merchandise retailers. Sodium claims - a $14.9 billion category dominated by soda products - kept its effervescence, recording no change in dollar sales over the last 12 months.

“The ‘better-for-you’ health movement to reduce saturated and trans fats resulted in a slender 1% uptick in products with an absence of a specific fat label claim - a $14.8 billion category. Products with a preservative claim still resonated with shoppers, resulting in a 1% sales gain to $14.5 billion. And that perennial favorite claim of ‘reduced calories’ sold $11.7 billion in 2009, up 6% as consumers pursued the elusive goal of weight loss.”
KC's View:
The argument here, through all the debate about how long-lasting the so-called “new normal” would be, has been that the recession has not eliminated the aspirational impulse among most consumers. People still have aspirations, and they will do their best to fulfill them within the boundaries of often changed economic circumstances.

The challenge to the industry is to figure out how to meet these aspirations within the changed economic framework.