Challenge set for food and grocery sector as shopping habits change

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th October 2009

Shoppers are likely to make a number of changes to their shopping habits in coming years with discount grocers and local food producers to be among the big winners, according to research from Britain.

The research into likely grocery behaviour in 2012, from grocery analysts IGD, shows more than half (54%) of shoppers will be more careful about spending money in the future than they are currently, with discounters to come onto the radar more often. About three in every ten respondents (29%) said they expected to be shopping at discounters more by 2012, while just 5% said they would do so less frequently. Additionally, 26% claim they will shop more at farmers’ markets, 23% more at specialist stores, 22% more online and 16% shopping more at neighbourhood stores. High street and premium stores would lose out as a result.

“Shoppers expect to be more careful in making their choices than today,” Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive, IGD, explained. “That doesn’t mean trading down – at least according to shoppers. Almost half expect to enjoy a better quality of food by 2012, with only 7% expecting it to be worse.”

“So shoppers intend to keep changing their habits, seeking more from less, and they expect the food and grocery industry to keep delivering better value.”

Ms Denney-Finch added that the study is merely a guide to the future, with consumer behaviour subject to change swiftly based on any unforeseen events.

“Shopper predictions don’t always come to pass and companies can always redirect trends by responding in new ways to consumer needs, but shoppers are saying that the tide of change is only just underway,” she advised. “It’s a challenge for the food industry but also a big opportunity. The more value companies can add, the stronger shopper loyalty will be.”

By 2012, nearly a fifth (37%) of shoppers expect to be buying more local and regional food, according to the IGD research, while 34% will be looking for more food that meets high animal welfare standards and 31% expect to buy more Fairtrade products. Shoppers are showing greater support for all three of these areas than at the same time last year. Around 15% also expect to be buying more organic foods by 2012, but 11% say they will buy less.

Healthier food is on the consumer agenda, with 36% thinking they will eat more fruit and vegetables in the future and 26% indicating they will eat more fish. However, 21% think they will eat less meat.

Consumers are also resigned to the fact that food prices are likely to rise – 77 per cent expect prices to be “a bit” or “much” more expensive in 2012.