- More Americans are eating healthy, even during Fourth of July barbecues, but it comes with a cost.
- Substituting organic food for traditional BBQ fare can sometimes cost twice as much
- "People are willing to pay a premium" for higher quality foods, one analyst told CNBC.
America, which staked out its independence 241 years ago, is undergoing a new revolution of sorts, as consumers across the country opt for healthier meals.
In a country where people love to eat, quinoa, kale and grass-fed meats are fast becoming the norm—even during July 4, which doubles as an unofficial eating holiday. In this environment, craft beers and infused water are supplanting Budweisers and sodas.
"There's a major shift going on," said Robert Moskow, an analyst at Credit Suisse. "Whole Foods ushered in a much broader array of options for the consumer that was more organic, more natural, more locally sourced. It ended up educating the consumer on what's going into the food and making them more selective and more sophisticated."
The shift hasn't come without sacrifices: It costs a lot more money to eat healthier. Consumers opting for more organic, locally sourced groceries can end up paying drastically more than their traditional food varieties.
"We as a species are now used to having our cake and eating it too," said Greg Fleishman, CEO and co-founder of Purely Righteous Brands, a consultancy that advises companies on green growth.
As a result, "people are willing to pay a premium for that kind of quality assurance," Moskow said.
As Americans fire up the grill to celebrate Independence Day, CNBC used data from Nielsen and the Beverage Marketing Corporation to figure out how much it costs to swap out classic ingredients for more health-conscious substitutes. In some cases, substituted items can end up costing almost twice as much.
The main course of any meal is going to cost the most. According to Nielsen FreshFacts, fresh hamburger patty by the pound costs $3.73 on average, while veggie patties go for $4.58 per pound. For a family of six, that adds up to more than $5.
Potato salad was once the staple side dish at barbecues all summer long. But recently, eaters are opting for healthier choices like quinoa, a rich source of protein and fiber, more and more. The price of the crop tripled between 2006 and 2013.
A prepared potato salad at the deli costs about $3.55 per pound, according to Nielsen, when prepared quinoa salad goes for almost $2 more, roughly $5.42 per pound.
"This increase in consumption is being driven by consumers desire to eat foods that are 'natural' or what some call 'clean,'" said Kim McLynn, executive director of the NPD Group, a firm that analyzes market trends. NPD expects organic food sales will soar by 16 percent over the next decade.
Baked beans are a classic American side dish. Hummus is a side growing steadily in popularity in the United States, while pita is the most common side associated with it. Together, Nielsen estimates the average cost is $5.56, while a package of baked beans goes for $3.88.
"The big brands of yesterday have lost a lot of clout," said Maskow, from Credit Suisse. "They are no longer providing fashion-forward solutions and they've lost a lot of pricing power."
On average, Americans can buy roughly a six-pack of value beer, like Coors or Miller, for $7.83, according to the DrinkTell Database from Beverage Marketing Corporation. But for those who want something a little more artisanal like a craft beer, that same amount costs about twice as much, around $14.34.
Fizzy drinks are taking a new form, evolving from a can of Coca-Cola to a tinted-glass bottle of San Pelegrino.
As families chug back the bubbly, prices for the two categories start to waterfall in different directions. While a pack of soda costs around $5.83 for roughly a pack, sparkling bottled water sits at $10.61 a pack—almost twice as much as its alternative. You might feel bloated after you drink a bottle of sparkling water, but your wallet certainly won't.
For those with a sweet tooth, ice cream is the classic way to cool off on a warm summer day. The average tub of ice cream costs about $3.73, according to Nielsen. But as cow milk gets swapped for almond milk, and sugar gets substituted with Stevia sweetner, prices see an inverse reaction. A container of non-dairy ice cream costs 1.3 times more, at $4.97 a tub, according to Nielsen.
Add it all up and families can pay substantially more with newer offerings, whether they are eating them for health reasons or otherwise. Summing up the prices above, a new age barbecue would cost almost twice as much as one with more traditional foods: $45.48 compared to $28.55.
"Organics are perceived as being more healthy," said Brian Todd, a food analyst from The Food Institute. "But nutritionally, they're shown by studies to be nutritionally the same as traditional foods. For families looking to do organic, prices can become an issue."