Do Customers Really Want to be Healthy in Your Store?

Good eating habits.  Obesity epidemic.  Healthy lifestyles.  Fresh foods.

It’s in all of the media:  How Americans are wanting to move to a more healthy lifestyle and they are craving the opportunities to eat foods that are better for them.  All anyone really wants these days is a small piece of grilled fish on a bed of quinoa washed down by wheat grass juice.

But is this true?  Studies have shown that there is an increase in “healthy eating” but this increase in mainly in the economic demographic that typically eats healthily anyway.  Research has shown that when fast food companies add salads to their menus the sale of hamburgers go up.  In the same vein, the posting of calories on menus doesn’t seem to have an impact on the purchase of menu items except for the dessert category.

The conclusion that I draw from this is that while people know that they should eat better and say that they want to eat better, the great majority of them will still pick the “unhealthy” option when given the chance.  We just can’t help ourselves.

The reasons for this dichotomy have been variously identified as economics (“unhealthy” food is cheaper than “healthy” food because of the lower cost of mass production), it tastes “better” (restaurants use lots of sugar, butter, and fats in their “unhealthy” offerings because those are the tastes that people find the most pleasurable), or that we are conditioned to order “unhealthy” food as a comfort food (similar to the taste argument but with a psychological twist added).

Regardless of the reasons, you don’t have to go far to find folks who look overweight.  As you know, there are all sorts of negative consequences from this on both a private and public level.  Personal discomfort, shorter lifespans, more chronic health problems, increased medical costs which lead to higher insurance premiums, and even food shortages have all been linked to this issue.

I recently came back from a wonderful vacation to central Asia.  Among the reasons it was so wonderful were the food, drink, and lack of exercise regime.  So, over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about (obsessing?) about calories and how to lose a few pounds that I put on over the summer.  Although I enjoy sports, I don’t seem to have the time to participate on a regular basis – at least not with a frequency to develop my skill level to where I would be happy to participate.  Let’s face it, no one really wants to play tennis with a bad player.  I go to the gym but that gets monotonous.  However, I persevere knowing that I have to do something because I don’t want the health issues and costs associated with wearing too many pounds.

But I know that exercise, while important, is only a part of a weight loss regime. The other part is calorie intake – how much we consume.  After years of constantly putting on and taking off the same ten pounds I’ve found that the most basic solution for losing weight is the best one for me: I have to burn more calories than I take in.

This calorie/healthy eating fixation has led me to some thoughts on what we should be offering in our stores which will be the topic for my next post.