Grocery trends ’08

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 2nd June 2008

Higher fuel and food costs and other economic pressures are having a pervasive impact on how consumers shop, cook and dine, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2008 report.

The selection of grocers is primarily dependant upon low prices, with 37 per cent indicating that this is the main reason for the choice of outlet. This is up from 31 per cent last year and comfortably above the second most popular reason, location (13 per cent). Further, most consumers are buying fewer luxury goods, more store/home-brand items and beginning to eat more leftovers.

Nutrition is another factor very much on the minds of shoppers with 41 per cent “very concerned” about the nutritional content of the foods they eat, and a further 47 per cent “somewhat concerned.” At the same time, many continue to fall short in acting on these anxieties, as 62 per cent of consumers believe their diets could be healthier. Baby boomers, parents with older children and consumers aged 25-39 were the most likely to indicate concerns about their diet.

Consumers search for a number of nutritional details on the label before purchasing a product and fat content is typically the most likely item on the label to be checked. More than forty per cent will also check the calorie count, salt, sugar and cholesterol levels.

Most food manufacturers are beginning to tap into this health trend by providing different offerings with added health benefits. While supermarkets are ensuring that they provide greater health options for their customers and natural or organic food sections are now commonplace.

Consumers are increasingly pressed for time and are more regularly deciding on their meals on the spur of the moment. Twenty-eight per cent of consumers do not know what they will eat two hours before dinnertime on weekdays and 35 per cent on weekends.

Two hours before dinnertime, many have not even decided whether to eat at home or a restaurant. On weekdays, the ‘plan-less’ are led by Generation Y (27 percent), single mothers (21 percent) and single men (19 percent).
These consumers create a large market for fast-food, takeaway and delivered meals. Supermarkets are responding, though, with meal solutions and quick-stop areas for dinner (often featuring their own checkout stands).

Americans are, however, cooking at home more often with 71 per cent now eating less often at restaurants. The number of dinners eaten by families at restaurants has dropped to 1.2 per week from 1.3 last year and 1.5 in 2006.

FMI President and CEO, Tim Hammonds, believes the challenges for some provide a silver lining for many others in the food industry. “Food retailers can turn these economic challenges into benefits for consumers and the industry,” he said. “As people eat out less often, we can help revive the great American home family meal tradition. This presents retailers an opportunity to win back a share of the meal-time market long owned by restaurants, and it provides American families important health, economic and social benefits.”

With healthy eating becoming in vogue a concern for the restaurant industry is the perception of the health of their food. Ninety-one per cent of consumers cited their belief that they ate healthier food at home than when dining out, and this implies that the restaurant industry needs to improve the perception of their meals or risk losing customers.

The FMI report also established sustainable shopping as an emerging trend with 61 per cent deeming it “very important” or “somewhat important” that retailers have a recycling and sustainability program. The issue is being highlighted in Australia with a phase-out of plastic shopping bags seemingly set to occur and supermarkets beginning to open new ‘green’ stores.

The introduction of green stores will be discussed in detail on Australian Food News later this week.