Grocery shoppers are prioritizing value and affordability over foods that offer immunity, a reversal of the focus on immunity that emerged during the pandemic, according to a survey of registered dietitian nutritionists.
The annual “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey from Pollock Communications and Today's Dietitian found that 70.4% of RDNs predict that the top driver for consumers in 2023 will be foods that are affordable and value-based, followed by foods that are easily accessible and convenient (59.1%) and, in third place, foods that support immunity (57.6%).
While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend toward “food as medicine,” the rising cost of living is driving consumers to shift their focus toward value, the report said.
Consumers are still mindful of their health, however, and remain interested in “superfoods,” especially those that promote gut health. In fact, fermented foods — such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha tea and pickled vegetables — were predicted to be the No. 1 superfood that consumers will seek in 2023. That marks the 6th year in a row that fermented foods topped the list.
Other superfoods that RDNs predicted would be in demand in 2023 included:
• seeds, such as chia and hemp
• nuts, including pistachios, almonds and walnuts
• leafy greens, such as spinach
• aquatic greens, such as algae, seaweed and sea moss
• green tea
• ancient grains
• non-dairy milks
Aquatic greens and non-dairy milks were new to the top-10 list this year, while kale and exotic fruit fell out of the top 10. All of the superfoods on the list fit into a plant-based diet, the report pointed out.
In fact, plant-based eating has continued to gain in popularity, the survey found, with RDNs rating it as the third most popular diet trend after intermittent fasting and keto diets. However, despite the popularity of plant-based diets, only 1% of surveyed RDNs reported that they would recommend highly processed meat alternatives.
RDNs also predicted that consumers will continue to snack as much as they have during the last two years. The top three reasons consumers continue to snack were boredom (71.8%), comfort (71.8%) and working from home (67%).
“Consumers are more aware than ever of the benefits food can provide for gut health and immune function,” said Louise Pollock, president of Pollock Communications. “As consumers face higher costs at the grocery store, they'll be looking for affordable food and snacks that still provide valuable health benefits. Our survey findings reflect how consumer behaviors are shifting as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, remote work remains, and inflation rises – from prioritizing affordable foods to continued interest in snacking.”
The report also highlighted the amount of false and misleading nutritional information online and on social media in particular. The RDNs cited Facebook, Instagram an TikTok as top sources of misinformation, and also said social media influencers were the top platform for distributing misinformation.
“Social media influencers are talking about wellness and nutrition at rates never seen before, but people struggle to differentiate between credible information and myths. This only supports the need to amplify credible sources of nutrition information, like registered dietitian nutritionists,” said Mara Honicker, publisher of Today's Dietitian.