by Dave Hanson

It’s a new year, and as always, many people are kicking it off with a resolution to shed a few pounds or pack on some muscle to look buff at the beach this summer. According to a Nielson study, there has been a surge of people following specific diet plans in the past couple of years, jumping from 29% in 2016 all the way up to 37% in 2018.

Whether your customers are going low carb, low cal or anywhere in between, the trip to the grocery store is every bit as important as the trip to the gym when it comes to fitness success. And while some dieters will stick it out as the year goes on and others will fall off, your product selection will no doubt have an effect on whether your store or stores remain a preferred destination for these customers.

Shelf assortment and using data to better understand trends in the marketplace will be big hot button issues at the upcoming Category Management and Shopper Insights Management Associations’ joint Annual Conference (February 25-27 in Las Vegas, NV). But in the meantime, here are three emerging health-conscious consumer trends that we think will make a strong impact on the grocery industry throughout 2019.

The macro-focused shopper

Many popular diets, including the ketogenic diet, paleo, Atkins and even classic bodybuilding plans, focus heavily on getting the proper proportions of the three basic macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. Expect health-conscious customers to be paying attention to the nutrition facts more than ever in 2019, and choosing products that fit their diet’s suggested balance.

Pretty much any popular diet these days will call for high amounts of protein, which helps to prevent muscle loss when losing weight, and helps build new muscle for people who are trying to gain. According to a study by Grand View Research, the protein supplement market is projected to reach $21.5 billion by 2025. It’s a good idea to make sure your shelves are stocked with easy-to-grab bars, powders, and protein-rich snacks.

Low carb, vegan and gluten-free substitutions

Veggie-based pasta, gluten-free breads, faux-meat snacks and similar substitutions allow people to enjoy many of their favorites on a diet – whether they’re trying to count calories, cut carbs, limit insulin spikes or avoid fats. Vegetarian options have become especially popular, and it seems they’re not just for vegans and vegetarians anymore.

According to experts at Whole Foods, faux-meat snacks are expected to be one of the top upward-trending foods in 2019. A recent Nielson study commissioned by food advocacy group, Good Food Institute, provided further insight, showing a 23% increase in plant-based meat sales in 2018. Brands such as Beyond Meat and Field Roast saw sales surge by as much as 70%. Keep your eyes and ears open for tasty alternatives to the foods your health-conscious customers have been missing.

The store as a resource

Grocers such as Kroger and Hy-Vee have been making bold moves to up their nutrition and wellness game in 2018. In November, Kroger launched its OptUp app, a new tool designed to help their customers better understand the nutritional value of foods and make smarter health-conscious shopping decisions. Working with healthcare companies such as United Healthcare, Kroger developed a nutrition ranking system for over 170,000 different foods in the app.

Hy-Vee has also undertaken an interesting experiment in West Des Moines, IA by launching HealthMarket, a small-store model with a strong focus on healthy living. The store is co-located with an Orangetheory Fitness gym and contains an assortment of both fresh and healthy foods and sports nutrition products. Hy-Vee plans on opening two more locations in Madison, WI and Kansas City, MO in 2019.

In both cases, these grocers have found ways to deepen the bond with their customers by weaving their brand into the health-conscious shopper’s lifestyle. It will be interesting to see how both of these experiments perform over time.

While these are just a couple of overarching trends, you can expect to take a deep dive into data-driven trends and how to get more useful insights out of your own data at the upcoming Category Management and Shopper Insights Management Associations’ joint Annual Conference (February 25-27 in Las Vegas, NV).

If you’re planning on attending, expect to come away with a few new strategies of your own on how to win at the shelf in 2019 and beyond.