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Attention to detail

Now is as good a time as any for food manufacturers to highlight the health benefits of their products or introduce new, healthier, lines, as European shoppers are buying food with less salt, sugar, fat or calories, according to analysts.

A survey by IRI, which was conducted among shoppers in seven European countries, has found that two thirds of shoppers are buying healthy food. More than half of shoppers buy organic food, an increase of 35% in the last three years and 39% buy vegetarian food options, an increase of 26% in the last three years. People buying free from food options has also grown, with 33% of shoppers in the region buying lactose-free, yeast-free or gluten-free products.

With more awareness about the role food plays in general health and wellness, alongside some high-profile incidents that raise questions about the safety of the food chain, more people are paying attention to the quality of the food that they eat, IRI believes.

One third of shoppers surveyed want to buy additive-free food and one in three shoppers read the ingredient lists and nutritional fact labels on food items before they purchase.

“Concern for general wellness is the biggest reason that Europeans are buying healthier food options,” says Livio Martucci, director at IRI and analyst of the shopping survey. “They are more concerned with the quality, safety and healthiness of the food that they buy, have an intolerance to certain foods or just want to lose weight. With obesity becoming a key challenge for health across Europe, it is encouraging to see that one in four shoppers (26%) want to achieve weight loss.

“It is likely that more people are eating free from products than are actively diagnosed as being intolerant. They think they are being more healthy by eating free from food items are prepared to spend more money in doing so.”

As a result, IRI believes that there is a huge opportunity for food manufacturers to highlight the health benefits of their products or introduce new, healthier, lines.

Martucci adds, “Healthy eating alongside organic, free from and vegetarian food is no longer a niche market to be profiled at the back end of a supermarket aisle. There is a huge opportunity here for manufacturers to innovate and for retailers to give more shelf space to healthier food options, including own label ranges. Ultimately, a focus on health could bring people back into stores and stop shoppers drifting into bio stores and street markets for their healthy food choices.”

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