A recent eMarketer article noted that, “brand loyalty, not as well-formed among younger shoppers, is more difficult to establish today, as a greater interest in healthier, fresher and organic food among millennials entices them to the perimeter of the store, leaving less money for the branded products in the center aisle.”

While I hate to admit that I fall into a category, this statement couldn’t be a truer representation of me.

Perimeter Shopping Rule

Image Source: http://www.brainpickings.org/2011/11/01/maira-kalman-food-rules/

My food purchasing decisions are driven by my desire to balance 1) price (give me wallet-friendly options!) and 2) quality (my produce and shelf-stable selections should be healthy, and ‘real’.)  In each case, the final decision, it seems to me, is based less and less on specific brands or their campaigns.

I definitely favor the produce and freshly prepared foods located on the perimeter of the store. In addition, I’ll finish filling my cart with branded products that more or less follow Michael Pollan’s 5 Ingredient Rule.  In most of his writing, this famous food and nutrition author suggests that we eat food products with no more than 5 ingredients. And 5 ingredients you can pronounce or envision in their natural state.


The more I have read about processed ingredients and their side effects and the more documentaries I’ve watched like Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Hungry for Change,  the more sensitive and particular I have become about what I bring home to make for myself and for loved ones… and, I’m clearly not alone!

The NY Times recently noted that, “the perimeter [of the store is] growing in part because of the demand from younger consumers for fresh foods and foods that are perceived as wholesome and unprocessed.  At the same time, older consumers are looking for healthier foods and juices.”  Even more compelling, as our Business Development Manager, Nora DiNuzzo, shared in her recent blog post, the natural products category is poised to exceed $226 billion by 2018 (representing more than a third of all U.S. retail grocery sales) and growing by almost 9% YOY.


Believe me – the adventure of trying to fill my kitchen cabinets and fridge with nourishing groceries can drive me to shop in circles! In fact, it’s not unusual for me to hit multiple stores in a single outing, like Giant Eagle, Aldi, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  (Oh my!)

While visiting four (4) separate grocery stores in one day sounds intimidating and trying, it’s become a way for me to discover good-for-me products, while also being able to conserve costs.  Specifically, I balance most of my time between Trader Joe’s and Aldi.  The former is praised for their wide variety of organic, non-processed and ethically sourced foods and the latter is renowned for their unique cart and checkout tactics that allow them to offer really quality items at “impossibly low prices”.

That said, I still hit the high-end food “markets” when I’m looking for those particular items.  I’ll walk the perimeter when finding the highest-quality ingredients matters to me most and venture into the aisles for specialty or organic items that are on my list.  Sure, these items often come at a premium, however, given enough energy and organization (and willingness to “shop in circles!”), eating a delicious, high-quality, mostly vegetarian and organic diet on a budget is do-able.

Three Tips for Balancing Perimeter, Price and Pleasure:

  • Eat Your Veggies:  I agree with Huffington Post that high-quality proteins like grass-fed lamb and wild-caught fishes and ethically- farmed chickens are the better option – but they can be pricey.  So, it’s important when you’re watching receipt totals that you occasionally cut back on the animal protein and bring more green (and purple, yellow, orange and red) to your cart.
  • How “O” Can You Go?:  Buy lower-case “o” organic and save yourself some coin.  Bon Appetit recommends visiting farmer’s markets for produce, too!  Find those producers who don’t use herbicides or pesticides as their produce is most likely just as good as certified organic. And they’re not going to break the bank. (Bon Appetit)
  • Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously:  Packaged foods get a bad rap—but we shouldn’t be THAT hard on them (or ourselves).  Yes, you will most likely see me snacking on some sort of baked lentil chip vs. Doritos – but eating is fun!  So, don’t beat yourself up if you buy one or a few of the Dirty Dozen or pre-heat the oven for an Italian Style Meat Trio pizza (moan).  You can juice in the morning.
Laura Forester
Laura Forester
Senior Social Media & PR Strategist

Laura is responsible for developing and executing channel initiatives for a number of national and local brands. Her approach to content and digital strategy reflects a desire to ensure a consistent and holistic approach to publishing. She also supports the team in more traditional communications efforts, as well. Laura has 10 years of experience working with local and regional clients and media outlets in consumer and corporate accounts for boutique and top-tier creative agencies both regionally and globally. She has excellent planning and organization skills and a fearless commitment to creative results. Her positive outlook keeps her department smiling and motivated. Laura is a graduate of George Washington University with degrees in English and Philosophy. She also holds a Masters from Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland.