Grocery Consumers Are Savvy Bargain Hunters

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Grocery Consumers Are Savvy Bargain Hunters


Today’s consumer is weathering the economy and is now a dedicated deal seeker at the supermarket, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s 2010 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report.

“Shoppers have gained a renewed appreciation for saving money through home-cooked meals, comparison shopping, store selection, brand preference, coupons and more,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. “They choose to save money by eating at home but they also believe, overwhelmingly, that the food they eat at home is healthier than eating away from home. It is clear supermarkets are positioned to help their customers save money and help them make healthier choices when it comes to food.”

The interest in home cooking is also impacting the number of weekly trips to the grocery store, which continues an upward trend averaging 2.06 visits per week. Nearly six in 10 shoppers say they are making two or more grocery shopping trips a week. Shoppers are spending an average of $99.90 weekly on groceries, up 1.5 percent compared to last year’s average of $98.40. However, total grocery dollars spent at the primary store declined to 75.4 percent compared to 76.6 percent last year. The primary store’s total trips decreased too, from 75.3 percent to 68.9 percent currently.

“Consumers are carefully planning their grocery shopping trip and the importance of price as factor in deciding the store destination is undeniable,” Sarasin said.

Price was named as the most important factor (75 percent) for choosing a primary store, followed closely by high quality fruits and vegetables (73 percent) and items on sale or money-saving specials (67 percent), rounding out the top three reasons for selecting a primary store.

Supermarkets held their place as the most frequented channel for 56 percent of shoppers, unchanged from 2009. This is the first time in five years that the supermarket share has not declined. Supercenters are the second most-popular choice with 27 percent of shoppers, followed by limited assortment stores cited by 7 percent of those surveyed.

The recession has caused changes in shopping and spending patterns for 52 percent of those surveyed, down from 69 percent at the peak of the recession in January 2009. Consumers have devised four savings strategies to save money on their food purchases: eating at restaurants less often, instituting money-saving tactics in-store, shopping secondary stores for advertised specials and switching primary stores.

One significant area shoppers have identified to reduce food spending is eating at restaurants less often. Unchanged from last year, 68 percent of consumers say they are eating out less than they did one year ago. Additionally, 52 percent now spend less money when they dine out by using restaurant coupons, eating at less-expensive restaurants and ordering lower-priced entrees.

Grocery store customers are saving money by purchasing only what they need and seeking the best value for their money. They are also using money-saving tactics before they go to the store by making a shopping list, researching sales, collecting coupons and comparing prices across store formats. Once at the store, they are participating in frequent shopper programs, using in-store coupons, buying from specials, stocking up on bargains and purchasing private brands.

“Purchasing private brands has become one of the most popular in-store money-saving measures used by shoppers and can offer a unique point of differentiation to the retailer,” Sarasin said.

According to shoppers, 92 percent of the stores at which they shop offer private brands and 40 percent of consumers say they purchase them at least once a week.

Nearly one-third of shoppers are comparing prices across stores and 44 percent claim they visit a variety of stores to capitalize on sales and promotions. In fact, some 70 percent of shoppers visit more than one format in the course of a month, with an average of three. The primary store share of a customer’s food budget has decreased as more shoppers list at least one secondary store they visit for groceries, up from 10 percent last year to 12 percent in 2010. Supercenters were identified as the secondary store for 20 percent of shoppers followed by limited assortment stores with 10 percent.

Consumers have many options when it comes to grocery shopping. Only six percent of shoppers report switching primary stores in the past year. This shows a high degree of loyalty in which more than 90 percent said they would recommend their store to friends and family.

More than half of shoppers (55 percent) are preparing more meals at home than they did one year ago. They continue to watch every penny they spend. Shoppers’ interest in supermarket ready-to-eat foods (55 percent) is at its highest point in four years, especially among those who are choosing to save money on eating out by cooking at home.

They are especially interested in:

- Freshly prepared, heat-and-serve food to take home (47 percent)
- Made-to-order sandwiches (37 percent)
- Extensive salad bar (37 percent)
- Prepared hot food buffet/bar (34 percent)
- Restaurant/sit-down area in-store (23 percent)

While saving money is the main reason for eating at home, nine in 10 shoppers also believe the food they prepare and eat at home is healthier than the choices they make when eating out.

For at least some, shoppers’ focus on price and value is coming at the expense of healthy choices. The number of shoppers who say they make “a lot of effort” to eat healthfully dropped this year to 27 percent from 34 percent. Those who say they make “just a little” effort or none at all rose from 18 percent last year to 26 percent in 2010. A growing number of shoppers (49 percent) admit their diet could be “somewhat healthier” and 13 percent say it could be “a lot healthier.”

The majority of shoppers (80 percent) readily accept that they themselves are responsible for making sure that the food they buy in the grocery store is nutritious. When it comes to learning about nutrition, most shoppers educate themselves using a wide variety of sources including the Internet (55 percent), magazines (35 percent), their doctor (34 percent), and friends and family (33 percent).

“Shoppers depend on many sources for their health and wellness information,” Sarasin said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for supermarkets to help their customers make healthier choices by providing wellness information, menu ideas, cooking classes and convenient, time-saving solutions while at the same time building shopper loyalty.”

The report also found that consumers’ confidence in the safety of food bought at supermarkets remains high with 86 percent saying they are either “somewhat” or “very confident” in the safety of their food. While this is the highest overall score in the past six years, the figure is greatly affected by recall activity at the time the data is collected. Consumer confidence in food safety can fall quickly during recalls which is why 72 percent of shoppers are only somewhat confident.

Consumers are more comfortable with food produced or grown in the United States than imported products: 91 percent of shoppers are either very or somewhat comfortable with U.S. foods. However, confidence in imported foods did increase from 42 percent last year to 49 percent this year, though the majority (44 percent) is only somewhat comfortable eating products grown or produced outside the States.

Up slightly from last year, 90 percent of shoppers trust grocery stores to sell safe food. However, they expressed less trust in government: 80 percent agree with the statement, “I trust the USDA to ensure that the food I purchase is safe,” and 78 percent hold this same view of the FDA.

Environmental and sustainability efforts have not been greatly impacted by the recessionary pressures. The number of shoppers participating in various green practices is growing.

Reusable shopping bags are gaining popularity as 80 percent of shoppers say they have noticed that their primary store offers them. Half of all shoppers say they try to bring their own bags when grocery shopping, which is up from 40 percent last year.

More than half (53 percent) of shoppers say their store offers locally-grown or produced products such as fresh meat or produce, or processed local favorites such as salsas, marinades and jams. Their reasons for purchasing local products: freshness (77 percent), wanting to support the local economy (73 percent) and they like knowing the source of the product (46 percent).

The use of energy-efficient light bulbs has risen from 70 percent in 2008 to 88 percent in 2010.

Sustainable seafood is a growing area of concern for consumers with 37 percent of shoppers purchasing sustainable seafood on a regular basis, an increase of seven percent from last year.

Data for U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2010, were collected through online surveys were conducted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 15, 2010, among a nationally representative sample of 2,002 U.S. grocery shoppers.

Food Marketing Institute conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations on behalf of its 1,500 member companies — food retailers and wholesalers — in the United States and around the world.