Today's grocery shopper is much
different than ever before, which means new marketing strategies
are needed to reach this consumer.
That is the common theme running
through the latest Grocery Shopping Trend Survey conducted by the
Food Marketing Institute. In a webinar detailing the study in
August, FMI Senior Vice President Susan Borra said a generation ago
it was easy for retailers and product marketers to reach a majority
of grocery shoppers. All they needed to do was to target moms and
they would reach half the households and even a greater percentage
Today, households composed of children
under 18 represent just 28 percent of all homes, which is the exact
same percentage of single-member households.
And even reaching the traditional home
makeup has become more complicated, because there has been "a
paradigm shift" in the roles assumed by husbands and wives, Borra
In fact, 50 percent of men claim they
have a primary role in shopping, with even more women saying the
same thing. The oddity of that statistic is that when you
extrapolate the numbers, 203 million people in a country of only
123 million households claim they are the "primary" shopper for
Laurie Demeritt, chief executive
officer of The Hartmann Group, who was a co-presenter during the
webinar with FMI's Borra, indicated that it is not false bravado
that leads to this inflated number. Instead, it is that different
members of the family bring their own interpretation to what
constitutes the primary shopper. Is it the preparer of the list,
the preparer of the meal or the person primarily responsible for
doing the shopping?
And the concept is further complicated
when household members share the responsibility for both cooking
and shopping. Some people delineate themselves as secondary
shoppers, but often - as the numbers indicate - both participants
consider themselves the primary shopper.
If it is hard to determine who is
making the buying decision, it is difficult to target market. Yet
Demeritt said it is very important for retailers and marketers to
understand who the buyer is.
Another area explored by this
extensive survey was the changing composition of in-home meals. A
Rockwellian picture of the nuclear family gathered around the table
for a meal is truly a relic from the past. The survey revealed that
47 percent of eating occasions are a singular event. And people eat
differently when they eat alone.
The survey also found an increase in
eating occasions as snacking has increased tremendously, with
eating a snack before breakfast and just before bed trending
upward. Borra said eating occasions are now meals 50 percent of the
time and snacks the other 50 percent.
These changing habits do offer
opportunities for retailers.
For example, Borra said 63 percent of
the time the decision about what to eat is made within one hour of
consumption. That is one reason why prepared food at retail is a
huge growth item. Demeritt said shoppers "are looking for
inspiration at the store."
And that is especially true of younger
Of the age groups studied, millennials
are least likely to prepare a list or to actually plan out the meal
ahead of time. As expected, the older shoppers engage in list
making and planning more often. Women do use a shopping list more
often than men, which is another factor that can be exploited
in-store. Women more often pantry shop, while men more often are
picking a needed item and may be more susceptible to impulse
There is a strong correlation between
cooking and shopping as the primary shopper tends to do most of the
cooking. But the fact is that men's presence in both the
supermarket and the kitchen is rapidly increasing. In just one
generation, men's participation has grown 50 percent.
Shopping and cooking have gone from "a
matriarchy to a democracy," said Borra. More people are involved
and expressing their opinion. More than 55 percent of the people
living in multiple-person households say they customize their meals
for individual tastes. In other words, the days of
one-menu-fits-all are quickly disappearing.
Borra reiterated that this is a
positive for retailers, as it gives them the opportunity to help
shoppers make buying decisions and meet their changing needs. She
said a very high percentage of shoppers trust their retailer and do
look to them for suggestions.
This survey, like many others, also
points to consumers wanting to eat a healthier diet. Seventy
percent say they don't eat as healthy as they would like, but 92
percent said they eat healthier at home than the meals they eat
outside the home. This again bodes well for retailers.
Consumers also have a high regard for
the food safety of supermarkets and the ability of the Food &
Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep
their food safe.
About 93 percent trust their grocery
story and believe the food is safe. Seventy-two percent trust that
growers have their safety in mind when producing the product. These
numbers have been growing steadily since reaching a low level
during the E.
coli outbreak associated with fresh spinach in 2006.
The FMI survey did not reveal much
participation in online food shopping. Only about 8 percent of
those questioned said they had bought food online in the previous
30 days. Millennials skewed a little higher, but still only 12
percent in that mostly 20-something generation had bought food
online in the previous month.
And when shoppers do buy online, about
half the time they are purchasing snacks rather than staples. Only
18 percent of all online food buys in this survey consisted of
fresh produce. That 18 percent of the 7-8 percent shopping online
accounts for only about 1.5 percent of shoppers.
In her concluding remarks, Demeritt
reiterated that there needs to be a major marketing shift by
American retailers because of the buying shift of consumers. Borra
echoed those remarks, noting that retailers have to find new ways
to target market, perhaps honing in on more specific shopper
demographics than they ever have in the past.
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