Adopted January 23, 2000
[Revised by FMI Board on May 1, 2004]
Download PDF Version of FMI Board Policy Regarding Consumer Privacy

We live in an era of unprecedented  growth in the collection, dissemination and use of consumer data. Aggregate information  derived from consumer purchases helps retailers and manufacturers  better understand the needs of their customers,  which, in tum, improves efficiency and lowers costs.  Food retailers also have the ability to use personalized  information as part of company matketing programs that benefit customers through special promotions,  attractive merchandise discounts and new product offerings.

Despite these advantages,  the collection and utilization of consumer data raises concern that the privacy of individual consumers  could be compromised. Recognizing this concern early on, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a non-profit association representing  more than 1,500 food retailers in the United States and around the world, developed a voluntary Policy Statement on Consumer Privacy in 1991.  The policy was intended to provide guidance to members on integrating their business objectives with the privacy concerns of their customers  in the rapidly expanding Information  Age.

Information, in fact, is driving fundamental  change in the relationship  between retailers and their customers. While food retailing  largely remains a mass merchandising  industry, companies increasingly are able to utilize consumer purchase data to micro-market products and services to individual customers. Loyalty card or "frequent  shopper" programs, which a number of retailers have implemented, offer special discounts and premium offers to customers who choose to participate. Another potential source of individualized service is the Internet, which largely is dependent upon information  supplied by consumers about their product preferences,  lifestyles, and other personal matters.  Grocery store pharmacies offer retailers the opportunity to create targeted marketing, updates on medications and medical compliance programs (e.g., refill reminders)  using prescription related data.

Emerging electronic Product Code (EPC) technology also holds the potential to improve the shopping experience of supermarket customers and to dramatically improve the efficiency of the supply chain. Retailers understand, and are sensitive to, the privacy issues arising in this new, data-rich environment.  A number of companies,  in fact, already have strong privacy policies in place.  In the meantime, consumer privacy has become a cutting-edge issue for federal and state regulators, the news media and consumer organizations. In light of these developments,  FMI re-evaluated its 1991 Consumer Privacy Policy in 2000, and again in 2004, and is adopting an updated version designed to reassure customers that the industry remains committed to protecting consumer privacy in a rapidly changing world.


The Food Marketing Institute and its members support the consumer's right to privacy. It is the policy of the FMI Board that it is not appropriate to sell, rent, or relinquish personally identifiable information to third party vendors, suppliers, or marketers.  FMI recognizes that transaction data is a resource that retailers can use on a confidential basis to improve customer service, lower costs and create personalized merchandising  and marketing programs for their shoppers who desire to participate.