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How Do Consumers Shop for Holiday Groceries?

How Do Consumers Shop for Holiday Groceries?

While conversations about the “grocery wars” today often center around price, a new study showed that consumers prefer to shop at food retailers that offer the best quality over those with the lowest price tags.

In fact, quality was the highest-ranking factor (31 percent) that consumers consider when choosing a food retailer, according to the State of Grocery Retail Report from Durham, N.C.-based heating and cooling solutions provider Phononic.

The study, which surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, uncovered insights into shoppers’ routine patterns, as well as specific trends during the busy holiday season. Additionally, the study looked to evaluate how preferences are evolving as younger Millennial and Gen Z consumers increasingly become a dominant buying cohort.

“With the rise of ecommerce, consumers have come to demand convenience and a seamless experience no matter where they shop, and brick-and-mortar retailers are increasingly embracing advanced in-store technology to compete in the digital age,” said Nicole Scott, senior product manager for food and beverage at Phononic. “This survey also clearly shows that solid-state freezers and refrigerators at checkout can help innovative grocery retailers meet the high consumer demand for quality and convenience – ultimately improving brand loyalty.”

The report, released earlier this year, found that 89 percent of consumers want to shop in a grocery store that understands how to make buying groceries an easier or more efficient experience.

Convenience is even more critical during the often stressful and busy holiday months, with 55 percent of consumers feeling that grocery retailers could make their lives easier this holiday season by grouping holiday items in one area of the store. The youngest demographic polled (age 18 to 24) were especially drawn to convenience, with a quarter of respondents in this age group wanting to see popular items at checkout (26 percent) and pre-made holiday meal offerings (24 percent).

The good news for retailers is that consumers – across age groups – are most often loyal to one grocery store for the majority of their shopping, with just under a third (29 percent) identifying themselves as loyal shoppers.

However, this trend shifts when looking at Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Thirty-four percent of 18- to 24-year-old respondents identify themselves as bargain hunters, demonstrating that food retailers must foster loyalty among this demographic. The study also found that the holiday season can impact loyalty, with 34 percent of consumers noting that during the holidays they make several trips to a variety of different stores for food shopping.

The report also revealed several additional key findings related to the holiday shopping season:

  • Grocery stores should rethink the checkout line, as one in four consumers (25 percent) would like to see more fresh produce offered at checkout this holiday season, even beating out alcohol, which came in third at 17 percent.

  • The regional grocery store is still a staple for consumers during the holidays, with 43 percent of respondents noting they do most of their holiday food shopping at these stores.

  • When it comes to holiday meal essentials, consumers want convenience, with one in six respondents noting they want pre-made holiday meal offerings to make their lives easier during the holidays, and one in four wanting to see fresh produce such as vegetables at checkout. When it comes to favorite holiday meals that consumers may want to see more of from food retailers, more than half (51 percent) of consumers surveyed listed mashed potatoes as a must-have side dish on their holiday table followed by stuffing at 45 percent.

  • Consumers want food retailers to make the holidays easier and more efficient, with the majority of shoppers (57 percent) agreeing that the crowds and long lines are the most frustrating part of shopping during the holidays.

  • Turkey trends haven’t changed with the times, with the majority (57 percent) still buying their Thanksgiving turkey in a traditional grocery store, further solidifying the report’s finding that most consumers identify as loyal shoppers.

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