Age main determinant of grocery shopping habits
Brits over 55 are still buying and eating more produce than younger consumers

Age main determinant of grocery shopping habits

Gill McShane
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A new survey from business intelligence research consultancy Future Thinking has pinpointed age as the most important factor in determining UK consumers’ grocery shopping and eating habits with those aged between 16 and 34 years old claiming it is more difficult to eat healthily on their tighter food budgets

According to the 2015 Grocery Eye report, some 80% of millennials (those aged between 16 and 34 years old) purchase fresh fruit and vegetables compared with 96% of over 55-year-olds, plus only 63% of millennials include fruit and veg in their diets compared with 88% of over 55s.

As such, the survey suggests this younger generation appears to lead less healthy lifestyles. The over-55 age bracket considers itself to have the most nutritious diet, with 40% believing they already have a healthy diet, compared with 28% of those aged between 16 and 34 years old. The over 55s are also more likely to look out for low-salt foods (29%) and high-fibre items (23%), whereas it is barely an issue for those under 35 (14%).

‘Healthy eating is more expensive’

In terms of barriers to consumption, the Grocery Eye revealed that 16-34 year olds feel it is more difficult to get by on their tight food budget. Overall, the study found that reducing the price of ‘food that is good for you’ would encourage more people to buy it.

Over half (65%) of respondents claimed that healthy eating is more expensive than eating unhealthily and 52% of respondents said making food cheaper would make them eat more healthily.

“One could argue (and plenty of government and food industry experts would) that healthy eating is not unachievable, even for the worst off in society and that it is a personal choice to do so,” says a spokesperson for Future Thinking.

However, the survey found that only half of adults believe they have the overall responsibility for encouraging healthy eating and 59% think parents are responsible for their children’s healthy eating, down from 75% in 2014. This has dramatically dropped from 88% last year, suggesting that attempts have tried and failed, and that people have become despondent.

Future Thinking therefore asks would the reintroduction of compulsory food education in schools be the way to regain personal control?

Unhealthy snacking among the young

Millennials also have a greater tendency to snack between meals during the day, according to the report, and look for packaging that fits in with their lifestyles; illustrating their changing needs.

Confectionery is, by far, the under 34s’ favourite item to shop for, chosen by 29% of respondents. Conversely, over 55s prefer to buy fresh fruit and veg, chosen by 38% of that age group.

As a whole, the report also found that 56% of people have not changed their eating habits as a result of reported increased sugar levels in certain food and drink. “It appears that the UK population are struggling to understand whether they should be cutting out sugar, fat or both,” Future Thinking states.

“In general, there are clear attempts to focus more on sugar than fat but when it comes to active weight loss (potentially as a result of too much sugar), decision making is reversed – cutting sugar gets left by the wayside in favour of reducing fat and portions, despite sugar being the most significant factor in dieting success.”

Engaging millennials

However, the research shows that 54% of millennials believe the role of organic products is important compared with just 30% of over 55s; – a surprising discovery, according to Future Thinking, when factoring in the cost of organic products.

“There is an unjustified perception that millennials are not engaged with food compared to their older peers,” explains Claudia Strauss, managing director of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Shopper at Future Thinking.

“Whilst it is clear that their lifestyles and lower [disposable] incomes result in their eating habits to be less healthy, millennials are more socially conscious than the older generations selecting brands accordingly.

“They also engage with foods in different ways, for example, ‘the Instagram effect’ reflecting the way millennials share images of their food on social media on average three times a week.”

Strauss says this presents a positive challenge for manufacturers who need to tailor not only their food offer, but also the way they communicate with different audiences.

The 2015 Grocery Eye is an annual independent study of over 2,000 supermarket shoppers to identify perceptions towards purchasing and consuming food and drink as well as non-food products.

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