FMI Trends Study Urges New Take on Shared Family Meals

Food Marketing Institute (FMI) revealed its 41st annual "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends" study, which focuses on a major change in shopping and mealtime distinctions, leading to new patterns in what and why consumers buy. Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based trade association, presented the study’s results during her June 10 keynote address at FMI Connect at Chicago's McCormick Place.

The executive summary explores current trends influencing shoppers and shopping; various demographic influences that are working in tandem to create a new shared-shopper paradigm; facts and figures that make the case for families sharing meals; and updates on shopper values, among them a convergence of personal health and community wellness ideas.

"More and more people are playing a larger role in grocery shopping," Sarasin pointed out in her address. "In fact, 57 percent of the population reports that it does all or most of the grocery shopping; 26 percent says it shares in at least 50 percent of the grocery shopping, resulting in a whopping 83 percent of U.S. adults who participate in at least half the food shopping for their households.

"Now if that feels high, it might be due to continued battling perceptions within a household regarding that which constitutes a 'primary shopper,'  with one person in the house defining it as the number of trips made to the market, and the other in the household defining it according to quantity of groceries purchased," she continued. "Regardless of the metric used, grocery shopping has clearly moved into shared territory in the household division of labor."

Sarasin went on to emphasize that whatever a family's shape, size or constitution, there are benefits to shared meals, and that food retailers have many opportunities to support families in this endeavor.

"I suggest that if we’re going to successfully help families achieve the goal of eating at least one more meal together than they are currently doing, we will need to literally put all meal possibilities on the table – including breakfast," she observed. "This means helping them with easy structures so breakfast becomes a meal not to be skipped, eaten alone or eaten out, and it has real potential of being a time when all in the home are gathered around the table starting the day in a healthy and cohesive fashion."

According to the research, different stages of family development and the various roles people play within the family structure offer a range of opportunities for retailers. For example, despite the image of time-strapped parents, meal consistency actually peaks among households with children, mainly because of their higher rates of dinner consumption, as kids eat consistently and frequently, and parents usually eat with them.

"As trusted leaders in your companies, your communities and your families, you can be the star that gives us direction, the light that guides us and the force that helps heal us," Sarasin said in closing.

FMI plans to further probe the data uncovered in "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends" in a series of webinars this summer.

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