In fitness, women lead the way

Females account for about 56 percent of all health club members, according to a national survey, and about 53 percent of all frequent exercisers. And they more often are the decision-maker when it comes to buying exercise equipment for the home.

"Ever since we’ve tracked participation in fitness activities, beginuing in 1987, more women than men have been frequent exercisers," says Gregg Hartley, executive director of the Fitness Products Council (FPC), which sponsors participation studies. Hartley adds, however, that males tend to be much more involved in sports than are females.

Based in North Palm Beach, Fla., the Fitness Products Council is composed of approximately 180 manufacturers and distributors of fitness equipment. It is part of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

In 1995, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 million females aged six and over participated at least 100 times in one or more of 14 different fitness activities such as running, walking, swimming, biking, aerobic dance or exercising with equipment. This compares to 25.4 million men.

But men may be slowly gaining. In 1987, 17.9 million men were frequent exercisers, or 45 percent of the total, about two percentage points lower than in 1995. There were 21.7 million frequent female exercisers that year.

"Women make the buying decision on home exercise equipment about 60 percent of the time," says Karen Dixon of Tunturi, Inc., which makes treadmills, stationary bikes and other exercise machines. "However, women tend to spend less than men on any Nven item. One of our goals is to persuade them to understand and seek better quality."

The main reason women exercise is to burn fat, says Hartley. An FPC survey, conducted by American Sports Data, Inc., found that weight loss was the number one reason women exercise - cited by 87.5 percent of female fitness center members. Muscle toning came first with men, cited by 84.7 percent of members surveyed.

Fitness walking is the favorite activity of females (10.6 million walked at least 100 times in 1995). Using free weights is first with men (7.7 million participated at least 100 times).

Women, however, are moving into strength training in big numbers, Hartley says. One major reason: building muscle helps burn fat. In 1995, slightly more women (11.5 million) than men (11.4 million) used a resistance machine at least once. And although the number of women who worked with free weights doubled to 15 million in 1995 (from 7.4 million in 1987), men still dominate in the weight room: 24.7 million rifted weights at least once in 1995.

"Not long ago, many women wouldn’t venture into the weight room of a fitness center," Hartley says. ’"They didn’t want big muscles and they might have been a little intimidated by the equipment and the atmosphere. But now women understand that it takes a tremendous effort to bulk up, that building muscle helps bum calories and that strength is important for general health."

Speaking of health clubs, can you guess what’s most important to women in selecting a club? Cleanliness. With men, it’s equipment or classes, according to an FPC survey of 210 facility managers.

Fitness participation statistics are from annual surveys conducted by American Sports Data, Inc. ASD sends two questionnaires to 15,000 homes each January. For the 1995 survey, some 17,000 usable questionnaires were returned. The sample is balanced to reflect the population as a whole.

Score box scores big

A poll by Eisner & Associates, a Baltimore advertising and public relations firm, finds that an overwhelming majority of viewers notice and like the network TV practice of constantly displaying the score and other game information on-screen during sporting events.

According to David Blum, Eisner vice president/strategic planner, NBC, which displays scores sporadically, may have missed out when it broadcast the World Series in October. "There was a relatively apathetic viewing public when it came to the teams in the Series. So given the public’s interest in the score box, and the fact that many of the games came down to the wire, NBC may have had an opportunity to increase its audience by hooking viewers with an omnipresent score."

While 54 percent of the 1,000 adults polled noticed and liked the score box, an overwhelming majority (76 percent) of sports fans really liked the box. The younger the viewer, the more they liked the box.

The score box, however, may not be a great innovation for advertisers, as 31 percent of adults surveyed think the box causes them to switch channels more often, with a net result of watching fewer commercials. Six percent thought they actually watched more commercials and 56 percent did not feel the score box impacts the number of commercials they watch. While this may be a negative to advertisers, Eisner’s study revealed that placing the score box on commercials may be the next step - especially when it comes to male v.iewers.

While just as many adults claimed they would watch more commercials if the score box continued to air during advertising, men were more likely to respond to more of the ads. "If you don’t really lose anyone, and you gain some of that elusive male audience, it may be worth looking at," Blum says.

The study was conducted the weekend of October 25-26. The survey is proportionately representative of the American public in terms of sex, age, region of country, ethnicity and income is based on 1,000 completed telephone interviews with a +/-3 percent margin of error.

Downsizing on the decline

Downsizing and outsourcing have dropped significantly among workplace trends. Downsizing has decreased 26 percent (from 31 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 1996) while outsourcing has decreased 23 percent (from 25 percent in 1995 to 19 percentin 1996)on alist of initiatives currently underway in organizations responding to surveys conducted by Minneapolis-based Lakewood Publications for its Training magazine. Reengineering (down from 35 percent to 30 percent) and total quality management(down from 58 percent to 49 percent) are also on the decline. Is a new trend on the horizon?

Convenience and health draw shoppers to prepared foods

The nation’s food shoppers are demanding both convenience and nutrition, and they are finding it at the prepared foods section in their supermarket. More than two-thirds of Americans, 68 percent, purchased prepared foods from supermarkets, and over a third, 36 percent, agree that supermarket prepared foods help them eat more healthfully, a substantial increase from last year, when only 25 percent considered prepared foods healthy, according to Shopping For Health 1997.

Shopping For Health was based on data from telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adult food shoppers by Princeton Survey ResearchAssociates from January 16-30, 1997, for Prevention magazine and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points.

The survey also found that seven in 10 shoppers, 72 percent, say nutrition is more important than convenience, but six in 10, 60 percent, believe that convenience foods are not healthy.

However, 65 percent agee that supermarket prepared foods are healthier than selections from fast-food restaurants. More shoppers, 43 pement in 1997 compared with 27 percent in 1996, also believe that supermarket prepared foods are healthier than packaged foods off the shelf. And four in 10, 38 percent, think that prepared foods are better for them than frozen foods.

"Time is pressing in on shoppers seeking healthy and convenient ways to feed their families, and survey results show that the supermarket is increasingly competing with fast-food and other convenience outlets as the best place they find both," says Natalie Webb-Payne, FMI’s director of consumer affairs.

"Shoppers are beginning to think of health and convenience as standard equipment, like air conditioning and power brakes on a new car," says Ed Slaughter, director of research for Prevention magazine.

An emerging trend in the six-year study is a decline in the perception that it costs more to eat a healthy diet. Although that perception had been increasing steadily since 1992, it now shows signs of decline. Just over half, 52 percent, think it costs more to eat a healthy diet, down 5 percentage points from last year’s survey.

A related new trend indicates that shoppers may expect gocery stores to provide foods that are healthy and convenient without a price premium. While two-thirds, 66 percent, are willing to pay more for healthy versions of foods, this has dropped 7 percentage points from last year. Similarly, the percentage of shoppers who are willing to pay more for convenience has fallen from 54 percent in 1996 to 47 percent in 1997.

In other key findings, most shoppers, 90 percent, believe they can improve their health by making small changes to their diet, and 81 percent are concerned about fat in their diet. Many shoppers are trying to eat healthfully by paying attention calories, 48 percent.

While reducing fat is a major concern, almost a third, 32 percent, still are not sure how to do it. In fact, the popularity of reduced-fat products seems to have leveled off. The survey found that the proportion of shoppers eating selected reduced-fat items has not changed greatly, after significant increases in their consumption from 1995 to 1996. Two exceptions are the use of reduced-fat salad dressings, which has dropped from 74 percent to 68 percent, and consumption of reduced-fat ice cream, which has melted down to 52 percent from last year’s figxtre of 57 percent.

Shoppers continue to be concerned about nutrition, and the survey shows they are making lasting changes in their diet. Just under half of shoppers, 44 percent, say they have changed their diet for health reasons in the last three years and 12 percent made a change more than three years ago. What’s more, 79 percent say they experienced health improvements and 92 percent continued with the changes after their health improved.

Four in ten, 41 percent, shoppers who changed their diet cite heart-related problems, including high cholesterol, 14 percent, hypertension, 13 percent, heart disease, 11 percent, and heart attack, 3 percent. Losing weight was the primary reason for 30 percent of shoppers to change their diet.

Below are some additional survey highlights.

What’s bad for ?

  • 80 percent of shoppers think too many foods claim to be healthy.
  • 74 percent think there is too much conflicting information about which foods are healthy and which are not.
  • 60 percent of shoppers are fired of experts telling them which foods are good and which foods are bad.
  • 44 percent think it is very likely that experts will have a completely different idea about which foods are healthy and which are not within the next five years.

Who do I trust for information?

  • 70 percent use magazines; 64 percent consult books; 61 percent talk to family and friends 57 percent rely on health care professionals.

Who reads nutrition labels?

  • 54 percent almost always read the nutrition label when buying a food product for the first time.
  • 51 percent say they almost always read the list of ingredients before buying a product for the first time.
  • 70 percent say the fat content is the among the first three things they look for on the label, 33 percent say the caloric content, and 29 percent say sodium is among the first three things they check.

How does the label influence purchases?

  • 54 percent say fat content is the reason they purchase products after reading the nutrition label.
  • 53 percent stopped buying a product they had regnlarly used.
  • 13 percent stopped buying meat becauseof something they read on the nutrition label.
  • 12 percent stopped buying dairy products like cheese (3 percent), milk (3 percent), butter or margarine (2 percent) or ice cream (2 percent) because of something they read on the label.

Why change what I eat?

  • 44 percent of shoppers say they have changed their diet for health reasons in the last three years.
  • 81 percent believe a low-fat/high-fiber diet can sigltificantly reducetheir chances of developing a serious health problem.
  • 56 percent of shoppers who changed their diet are trying to decrease the amount of fat.

What helps me improve my diet?

  • 71 percent of shoppers say they would use recipes for healthy meals to improve
    their diets.
  • 58 percent would use signs and displays in the grocery store to improve their
  • 48 percent would ask a grocery store’s nutritionist for advice to improve their diet.
  • 40 percent say they would call an 800-number set up by a grocery store to answer questions on health and nutrition.

What makes me buy a new product?

  • 57 percent look at price before making a new purchase, 34 percent look at a product’s brand name, 33 percent look at health claims, 32 percent look at serving size, 30 percent look at preservatives and additives.

Olestra - does it matter?

  • 51 percent of all shoppers are aware of Olestra.
  • 41 percent of shoppers who have heard of Olestra say they are not at all likely to buy food products that contain Olestra.
  • 21 percent of those aware of Olestra think it is very likely they would have side effects if they ate products with Olestra.

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is a non-profit association conducting programs in research, education, industry relations, and public affairs on behalf of its 1,500 members - food retailers and wholesalers and their customers in the U.S. and around the world.

Study reveals five automotive loyalty segments

A survey of nearly 4,000 car and mack sales and lease customers by the Automotive Research Group of Maritz Marketing Research Inc., indicates five distinct groups who behave according to differing attitudes toward loyalty. Two of the segments have below-average loyalty rates, two have above-average loyalty, and the remaining group exhibits loyalty much higher than any brand can currently claim.

The segments are:

  1. "Testing the Possibilities" - A low-loyalty, cost-conscious, generally uninvolved group who gravitate toward below-mid-market models. A notable exception are sports-utility vehicle owners, who are strongly represented in this group, suggesting potential lack of stability in that category.
  2. "Playing the Field" - While this segment says car dealers are significantly to blame for their below-average loyalty, they do want their cars, vans and sports-utilities to look good, be fun to drive, and have low maintenance. Women have a greater share in this segment than in any other.
  3. "Purely Pragmatic" - These demanding customers have above-average brand loyalty, once it has been earned. Because most of them are married with children, and have below-average incomes, they generally do not buy luxury or sport models. Here, quality product and good service result in loyalty.
  4. "Driving the Best" - Also demonstrating above-average loyalty, this status-conscious group want their vehicles to make a statement. Prestige brands find their home in this segment. Members are young and have the highest incomes of all segments. Their loyalty rests on image, product, and service.
  5. "Dyed-in-the-Wool Advocates" - Tending toward big luxury cars and full-size pickups, this group is a strong brand supporter with the highest loyalty level of all. Its members seem to relish their loyalty, perhaps more as a habit than a choice. Domestic brands dominate, but certain Asian brands also do well in this group.

Asian sauces tempt U.S. palates

In the last 10 to 15 years, Americans have learned to crave hotter and more exotic foods. This craving has, no doubt, been cultivated mainly by Mexican-Tex Mex and Cajun/Creole cuisine. In addition, the sweet notes of southem barbecue and the hot notes of buffalo wings have also contributed to America’s next round of culinary maturing.

Emerging new flavors from Asia are now feeding hot and spicy taste cravings thanks to the proliferation of Asian cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Malaysian. FlavorTrak, an information research database of the Foodservice Research Institute, monitors the growth of Asian and all new flavors and seasonings in its Emerging Flavors Report.

Asian sauces are generally made up of two or three basic components plus a sweet or sour or hot flavoring. Key ingredients of Asian sauces are ginger, sesame, curry, peanuts, soy, coconut, cilantro, horseradish, garlic and chili peppers and these may be blended into numerous sauces, glazes and marinades.

There are several hundred sauces monitored by FlavorTrak’s Emerging Flavors Report. The Top Ten Sauces are BBQ sauce, mafinara sauce, sour cream sauce, alfredo sauce, Mexican salsa, pico de gallo, avocado/guacamole sauce, honey mustard sauce, alfredo sauce and caesar dressing. It is safe to say that new Asian sauces pose little threat to any of today’s leading sauces, but in 10 years, one or two Asian sauces may creep into the top 10. The FlavorTrak Emerging Flavors Report is based on menu information collected from 365 leading chains and 100 cutting-edge restaurants.

DVD will replace VHS, CD

DVD (often referred to as digital versarile disk) will take a minimal role in the video and music industries but win big in the PC market, according to the Entertainment & Technology Strategies service of Forrester Research, Inc., Cambridge, Mass. With DVD drives, the PC’s role as an entertainment platform will grow dramatically. As a result, the entertainment balance of power will shift toward PCs. Over the next two years, DVD will engender a new content model.

DVD will replace VHS tape, the compact disc, and CD- ROM, Forrester concludes. The question is when. As DVD rolls out, content providers must decide if and when to support the new format. Forrester projects the penetration rates of DVD in the video, music, and PC markets and analyzes how astute content providers should approach the medium. This analysis does not include future video game consoles based on DVD. The report concludes that:

  • DVD will take a minimal role in the video and music industries for four to five years. However, it will win big in the PC market, replacing CD-ROM drives in most new systems shipped in 2000.
  • Equipped with DVD drives, the entertainment role of the PC will grow dramatically. As a result, the PC will take increasing numbers of eyeballs and ears away from TV and audio systems in the United States.
  • As the entertainment balance of power shifts toward the PC, DVD will foster a new content model. This highly involving, audience-tailored experience weaves the interactivity of CD-ROMs with high-definition video and digital audio.