Shoppers Demand ‘Clear and Honest Answers’: FMI

Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has released its U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 analysis, which indicated that more than just information, American grocery shoppers hunger for transparency that engages them on such topics as food safety, health and wellness, new discoveries, and a closer connection to the food they eat.

FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin presented the findings before more than 400 of the industry’s future leaders in Chicago at FMI’s Future Leaders eXperience, taking place June 11-13 at McCormick Place.

“[Consumers] can handle the truth, and the information they do want to know, they want delivered in a clear, forthright, trustworthy and easy-to-find way that conveys some sense of vulnerability and openness," Sarasin said. "This is a crucial area because I think honest clarity is the currency of trust in the digital age.”

While less traditional retailers enjoy more grocery traffic and shopper loyalty, the research found that 8 percent of shoppers still claim to have “no primary store.” Limited-assortment (25 percent), natural (17 percent), convenience (11 percent), ethnic (11 percent) and online-only (11 percent) food stores are increasingly frequented by shoppers. These results were particularly significant, FMI, noted, because this year’s research suggested how comfortable Millennials have suddenly become with using online shopping to purchase groceries, although they still order only a limited assortment of food products online.

Sarasin asserted that the unpredictable state of the marketplace necessitated a strategy to help transform a retailer from “just a store” to an ally. According to the research, overall shopper ratings of how well stores are meeting their needs favor those retail channels that lead in transparency, among them natural and organic, online-only, club, fresh-focused, and midmarket traditional grocery stores. Conversely, retail channels lagging in transparency include discount, convenience, supercenter, limited, dollar, drug and value-focused. Consumers continued to view their primary store also as a primary ally in their wellness pursuits (45 percent).

The analysis cited dimensions of transparency that could help retailers better connect consumers with the broader context of their food, notably a retailer that provides easy access to relevant information, clear quality standards, proactivity and accountability, fair treatment of employees, and openness about business practices. In fact, the findings showed that consumers ranked fresh-focused traditional grocery stores and natural and organic stores above value-focused traditional supermarkets across all dimensions of transparency.

Stressing that transparency imparts relevance to the retailer-shopper relationship, Sarasin observed, “In the competitive food retail landscape and in an age in which information moves faster and faster, the consumer demand for clear and honest answers offers a zip-line to confidence in the complex food system.”

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