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Food/Nutrition Columnist Author: Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist - Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

What Motivates You To Buy Certain Foods?

By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist -
Oct 30, 2016 - 10:57:47 AM

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( - The traditional grocery shopper and traditional brands are changing. The old system where a brand spoke to shoppers through media commercials, store flyers and coupons is becoming obsolete. Today’s food shopper wants a two-way dialogue with both the brands they buy and the stores they shop in. Shoppers want their needs heard and they want the brands and the stores to respond.

According to the Private Label Manufacturers Association young families and young singles are the drivers behind many of the dominant food trends we see today. Half of this group doesn’t schedule meals and 62% of them snack throughout the day. Snacks often replace meals for 18 to 34 year olds as modular eating becomes the accepted alternative to eating three meals a day. They use apps to guide food choices and over 60% of them make a shopping list. However, close to 50% say they spend less time cooking and more time eating out than they did growing up. Cooking can be fun, but they have no interest in doing it every night.

Clean labels are now the most dominant food trend today. Food and beverage companies are shortening ingredient lists, moving away from fortifying foods, and looking for natural alternatives to replace synthetic preservatives. McCormick has recently introduced food coloring that is branded Color from Nature, made from plants, seeds and vegetables with a pledge to be free from artificial dyes. When Original Cheerios was reformulated as part of a non-GMO drive, riboflavin (vitamin B2) was removed and disappeared from the ingredient list. Original Cheerios was a major source of vitamin B2, but the new non-GMO version has little or none. This is a good example of consumers driving brand trends.

According to Catherine Adams Hutt, PhD, RD, food and beverage companies are moving away from fortifying foods with vitamins, minerals, and other nutritious ingredients because many of these ingredients have long, chemical-sounding names. Today’s consumers want minimally processed foods and terms like palmitate (vitamin A), sodium ascorbate (vitamin C), and pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6) sound scary and they may interfere with some certification requirements, such as Non-GMO Project Verified. The end result of this trend may not be as beneficial as we’d hoped.

According to market researcher David Sprinkle from, 65% of consumers believe that the fewer ingredients a food contains the better it is and 72% believe that naturally occurring nutrients are better for you than the nutrients added to processed foods like breakfast cereals. Over 50% of consumers say the ingredient list is very important to them when comes to choosing packaged foods or drinks.

According to the report Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid, as many as three-quarters of all food shoppers make buying decisions based on avoidance choices. Free-from foods are what consumers want. But, the term means different things to different consumers. There are four types of food shoppers that have ingredient concerns.

1. Shoppers who make medically driven purchases – gluten-free, allergen free, lactose free.

2. Shoppers who want foods that meet their life choices – vegetarian, vegan, kosher.

3. Shoppers who want their foods to be absent of negatives – Non-GMO Verified, No Antibiotics Ever, Cage-Free, Grass Fed, no artificial sweeteners, no preservatives, no artificial colors.

4. Shoppers looking for more traditional free-from labels – fat free, no sodium, no sugar added.

Food shoppers’ attitudes are changing when it comes to deciding which foods are healthy choices for themselves and their families and which foods represent their values. This wide variation in needs and acceptability is an enormous challenge for food companies and supermarkets.

What you purchase and what you eat is a visible way to demonstrate your values and lifestyle. Today’s consumer wants the brands they buy to:

· Share their values about sustainability and social consciousness.

· Offer transparency and traceability about what is in the food and where ingredients came from, right down to the farmer who grew the crop.

· Provide clean foods with fewer ingredients and clear food labels that they can read and understand.

· Have third party verifications – Certified Organic, Certified Gluten Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Vegan, certified kosher, certified halal.

· Donate some of their profits to demonstrate the company is doing good by supporting a cause or advocating for free trade.

Brands and supermarkets that don’t evolve to address the modern food shoppers’ needs will be left behind.

For more information on planet-friendly eating, take a look at one of my latest eBooks the Healthy Wholefoods Counter.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books. Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:

Diabetes Counter

Calorie Counter

Protein Counter

Healthy Wholefoods Counter

Complete Food Counter

Fat and Cholesterol Counter

Available in print from Gallery Books:

Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd Ed.

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


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