Spicing Up Shopping Carts: 80% use spices every day

October 25, 2012

In a recent story on The Lempert Report, dietitians discussed what ingredients shoppers can find value in when it comes to spending a little more money. Sylvia Geiger (MS,RD), University of Vermont and Education Chair for the Food and Culinary Professions of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic, said, "Spices are products I’m not willing to skimp on. While it’s true, they can be very pricey—they are an absolute must for healthy cooking and essential for creating foods with authentic world flavors. They add depth and complexity to any dish and allow you to cut down on sugar and salt. An added boon is that many spices such as turmeric and cinnamon are rich in healthful antioxidants. For that reason alone, they deserve a place in our shopping carts."

Last month, the SupermarketGuru consumer panel was asked to weigh in on what their shopping and cooking habits are when it comes to spices. Here's what they had to say.

Eighty percent of the SG panel said they use spices every day in their cooking, 18% a few times a week, and 2% only once a week. And 61% said that they have increased their use of spices in the last year. When asked at what mealtime they tend to use spices the most, 97% of the panel answered dinner, 2% said lunch, and only 1% chose breakfast.

Why are shoppers more interested in incorporating spices into their home-cooked meals? According to 60%, it's for variety of taste. Forty-eight percent say they like spices for the health benefits, 31% use them to elevate flavor where they are cutting back on salt, and 19% percent say they use spices to relieve the tedium of home-cooked meals.

The Lempert Report feels that what's is most interesting to note is shoppers want to use spices for their health benefits, so SG dug a little deeper to see how knowledgeable the panel is of these benefits - an area where supermarkets can step in and offer guidance. SG found that 15% feel they are very knowledgeable, 46% are moderately knowledgeable, 31% are somewhat knowledgeable, and 8% feel they are not at all. Forty percent say they can name the health benefits of five or more spices while 31% can name three or four, and 23% can name one or two with the remainder unable to name any at all.

In addition, SG asked where shoppers learn about spices. The number one answer was the Internet (72%), magazines came in second (63%), and TV cooking shows were the number three answer (57%). Another 35% say the learn about spices from friends and family, and 18% said from in-store materials.

Here's a list of the top ten spices used most often by the SG panel:

1. Pepper - 83%
2. Garlic powder - 81%
3. Oregano - 75%
4. Ginger - 71%
5. Paprika - 69%
6. Cumin - 64%
7. Rosemary - 62%
8. Thyme - 62%
9. Italian seasoning - 57%
10. Chile - 56%

The food industry has been paying attention to the growing number of men and women interested in more home-cooking as well as shoppers looking for new, exotic flavors, and ways to kick up health benefits as well as reduce salt without sacrificing flavor. Now is a great opportunity for supermarkets to showcase their spice aisles, offer more in-store information on uses and benefits, and promote new flavor profiles by way of their prepared food departments, which will ultimately expand the palates of shoppers and lead to more spice sales.

For more info on health benefits, check out these SG articles:

Spice for Flavor and Health
Sweet and Savory, Cinnamon's Health Benefits


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