$120 Billion Spent On "Ailment Foods" Annually

Forbes magazine recently reported on a Nielsen study (B Kowitt, The Rise of the Ailment Shopper, November 2016, p 14) that focused on the amount of food purchased to help our various ailments.  Turns out 39% of food shoppers suffer from some condition, and that of course drives their buying.  The 7.3 million families with a diabetic in the home for example spend $45.8 billion food retailers; overweight families spend $55.4 billion on low fat and low sugar foods.  Gluten-free foods now make up $13.9 million of the US food budget and lactose intolerant patients spend another $20 billion each year.

The point they make is that the food industry has identified approximately 20 million families, where “ailment shoppers” now spend $120 billion each year, using food as a main source of treatment for their conditions.  The experts expect that number to increase.  And that doesn’t include the ingredients called functional foods that includes vitamins and flavonoids that are supplemented in foods for their beneficial effects (for example, the Vitamin D added to milk and the iron added to infant cereals).

All of this attention is not unexpected. The food industry carefully tracks what consumers want as well as what they need.  They are advertising Gluten-Free on their labels for products like canned fruits and vegetables that should obviously be gluten-free.  They are responding to mandates to label for common allergies.  And hopefully all of those measures will make food shoppers more conscious of what they feed their families.

Other things you can do:

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  That’s where almost all grocers have their fresh fruits and vegetables and their dairy, fish and meat counters—the healthy foods you want to emphasize in your diet.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry.  It’s been shown that you add foods to your cart-often ones that aren’t as healthful.
  • Remember that your child who craves sugary and salty snacks, sodas, and sweet desserts probably isn’t the one buying those products and keeping them on your shelves at home.  If those foods aren’t in the cupboard, they’ll choose the healthier choices you make when you’re shopping.
  • If the kids complain about not having the snack foods around, or when you bypass a fast food restaurant instead of stopping there, use the opportunity for a “nutrition moment” to teach them about healthier eating and better choices.  They may not like it at the time, but they may thank you later, and hopefully, you’ll have the satisfaction of having a healthier, more engaged family.

Use the resources we provide on Healthy Snacking, Increasing fruit and vegetable in your kids diets, and Helping Picky Eaters.

Dr. Stan Cohen 01 March 2017

Dr. Stan Cohen is one of our founders and our CEO as well as the Chairman of our Medical Advisory Board. Dr. Stan is an internationally recognized expert in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. He is a Read More

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