CHICAGO, IL — May 1, 2005 — While American consumers continue to seek value in their weekly grocery shopping, value is defined differently for each and every shopper group and even individual shopper. One thing is consistent though, they and are willing to take extra steps to get it, according to the new Food Marketing Institute (FMI) report, U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, 2005.

The study — released on the opening day of the 2005 FMI Show being held here — also shows that, along with a strong desire for value, consumers are putting the highest importance on quality food, a good store environment and convenient mealtime solutions.

The report shows that consumers’ overall satisfaction with supermarkets remains high, but that they are becoming increasingly diverse. Shopping behaviors are simultaneously influenced by multiple factors: age, gender, race, economic status and others.

The changing configuration of the family has implications for food purchasing behavior as well. The rise in families headed by a single parent has increased the number of people with the dual responsibility of providing the household income and being the primary grocery shopper. At the same time, there are now more single-person households than ever before, with more money to spend on a per person basis than any other household.

Shoppers make an average of 2.2 visits to the grocery store each week, including an average of 1.7 visits to the primary store. They spend an average of $92.50 a week per household, of which $70.90 is spent at the primary store.

Supermarket Satisfaction Remains High, Shoppers Seek More and Better Services

Trends 2005 finds that shopper satisfaction with grocery store performance remains high, with 75 percent giving their supermarket a rating of 8 or higher (on a scale of 10). Sixty percent of these customers would definitely recommend their store to a newcomer, and another 31 percent would probably endorse it. Seventy percent have shopped at the same primary store for more than five years.

The top three features Trends consumers deem important when choosing a primary supermarket are high-quality produce; high-quality meats; and a clean, neat store. All of these features were rated “very important” in store selection by at least 74 percent of shoppers.

Low prices were close behind, along with a fast checkout.
Other key considerations include the availability of money-saving specials, a convenient store layout and personal safety outside the store. Features vary greatly based on gender, age, region and most of all store format shopped.
Shoppers identified three factors that would increase their trip frequency with the primary store: faster checkouts, quick-stop areas at the front of the store (with milk, bread and other staples) and friendly employees. At their secondary store, shoppers say better prices, speedier checkouts, more specials and better perishables quality would drive additional trips and purchases.

Trends shoppers report the most common features available in U.S. supermarkets are:

  • Private label/store brand products
  • ATM/debit card acceptance
  • Fresh food deli
  • In-store bakery
  • Fresh seafood department
  • Floral department

Also widely available to shoppers are beer/wine, natural and organic products, a butcher to cut meat to order and an in-store pharmacy. Newer store features that appear to be growing in availability, mostly among supercenter and discount store shoppers, include digital photo finishing, gasoline sales, coffee bars, online ordering and home delivery.

Alternative Formats, Cost-Saving Strategies Influence Grocery Purchasing Behaviors

American consumers continue to explore methods for reducing the cost of the weekly grocery bill. Key savings strategies employed by shoppers:

  • Making a list prior to shopping (54 percent)
  • Participation in a frequent shopper program (41 percent)
  • Looking in newspaper for grocery specials (40 percent)
  • Stocking up on sale items (24 percent)

Supermarkets continue to be the primary destination for purchasing groceries — 93 percent of shoppers named at least one supermarket among the list of stores where they have shopped in the past 30 days. Supercenters are a distant second at 41 percent. Conventional discount stores and warehouse club stores close out the top four at 26 percent and 24 percent.

When combining store type and frequency of shopping, today’s consumers tend to shop many different store types to meet their grocery needs. Just under half of shoppers (46 percent) say they purchase their groceries at full-service supermarkets almost every time, and an additional 29 percent shop at these places fairly often. However, more than half of shoppers report shopping at multiple stores. Nearly two in 10 (19 percent) shoppers shop at supercenters
and 12 percent shop at discount stores. Drugstores, warehouse club stores, dollar stores and limited assortment stores were each visited by five percent of shoppers.

Conventional supermarkets remain the dominant outlet for food products including frozen foods, cereal, meat or poultry and natural or organic foods. However, they no longer provide the majority of non-prescription drugs, paper, household cleaning or pet products. In fact, for some of these, supercenters sell an equal share of the product.

Warehouse club stores are the third most important outlet for meat or poultry, breakfast cereal and frozen foods, and register high for paper products as well. Shoppers go to discount stores mostly for non-food items.

Health and Nutrition

American shoppers know their diets should be healthier, but they are slow to take action. Many claim that there is too much conflicting information about what is healthy, that healthy food is too costly and that healthy choices don’t readily exist in restaurants. Only 42 percent of respondents are familiar with USDA’s dietary guidelines, and 43 percent do not include vigorous exercise in their routines or do so less than once a week.

On nutrition, consumers are paying closer attention to the fat, cholesterol, trans fats, whole grains and fiber in their diets. Interest in carbohydrates has plummeted, however, except among dieters—more of whom are on low carb diets than anything else.

Home-Cooked Meals Prevalent Over Eating Out By Most
Trends consumers show a greater inclination to prepare home-cooked meals, with 92 percent reporting having home-cooked meals at least one a week and 79 percent preparing them at least three times per week. Not surprisingly, younger shoppers, particularly males, were the least likely to prepare meals at home and older shoppers, particularly females, were the most likely.

Shoppers report eating their evening meal away from home 1.5 times per week. Younger shoppers eat away from home more often than other shoppers, preferring fast food over other sources. Not surprisingly, people from smaller households and higher income households eat out more often than those from larger and lower income ones.

Other Key Findings:

  • Women, particularly those who work part time, place greater importance on high quality produce and meats. Households on any type of diet value high quality produce significantly more, as do specialty store shoppers.

  • Younger shoppers are more interested in an exciting shopping environment than any other generation. High frequency shoppers as well as high spenders are also interested in an exciting store environment with new ideas and products.

  • Age is inversely proportional to self-checkout importance — the higher the age group, the lower the importance.

  • Country of origin — when it comes to buying meat, produce or seafood, the most important attributes are quality and price overwhelmingly. Only a small percentage (2-3 percent) look for country of origin.

  • Generation Y is a generation on the go. Features they deem important are fast checkout, self checkout and quick, convenient meal solutions. They love eating, but aren’t interested in cooking the food themselves. In fact, they show the lowest per-person grocery spending of all shopper groups. They love a variety of foods, including ethnic, organic and gourmet foods. They eat out more often than anyone and are extremely high in their use of coffee bars.

Data Tabulation

Data for Trends were collected through two independent surveys using the Harris Poll Online database. Online surveys were conducted among a nationally representative sample of 2,001 U.S. shoppers. Respondents must have met the following requirements to participate in the survey: A minimum of 15 years of age; primary or equally shared responsibility for food shopping; and they must have shopped for groceries in the past two weeks. The surveys were available in English and Spanish to ensure a representative sample of the U.S. Hispanic population.