The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Price Concerns Drive Choices in New Year

Price Concerns Drive Choices in New Year

Shoppers and Trends

January 25, 2009

A majority (52%) of shoppers say price is ‘very important’ in deciding where to buy food, according to research conducted by the N.G.A. and SupermarketGuru. Their 2009 Consumer Panel, conducted online between November 2008 and January 2009, was underwritten by ConAgra Foods and surveyed 2,145 chief household shoppers. Shoppers detailed their purchase influences, eating habits and nutritional concerns.

The weakening economy, clearly impacting where people choose to shop, also had a significant impact on what consumers are purchasing. When it comes to organic products, there was a big drop-off. Only 22% listed organic as key in their store selection, compared to the 27% who sought out organics last year.

Without a doubt, consumers are less committed to costly organic foods today. Count almost half the nation among those who ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ eat them (46%), which is up four points from survey findings a year ago.

Meanwhile, private label or store-branded items were preferred by 70% of consumers; 62% preferred them in 2008. A majority (53%) purchases private label or lower-priced alternative brands, up five points from last year’s 48% finding.

Sales were another hot bottom item for money-minded shoppers. Nearly six in 10 shoppers (58%) say sales or specials are ‘very important’ factors in where they choose to shop today. That’s a full seven percentage points higher than the 51% who felt the same way a year ago.

Nearly two out of three consumers see frequent shopper programs as an important tool to help them spend less. A majority (51%) now belong to savings clubs programs, up six points from last year’s 45% finding.

Indeed, shoppers are increasingly seeking out bargains. Even in this current economic climate, however, they are not willing to compromise on quality – or courtesy. Nearly nine out of 10 consumers (86%) overall want terrific produce where they shop; 75% value high-quality meats. All survey respondents says a clean, neat store is an important factor in influencing their shopping destination, and nearly all (94%) want to interact with friendly employees.

Another non-negotiable item is the availability of locally grown and packaged foods. By using nearby food sources, grocers add an attraction that matters to eight out of 10 (79%) survey respondents. This year’s ‘very important’ finding (36%) is the same as a year ago, while ‘somewhat important’ registered one point higher (43%) than in 2008. Local matters most to households with no children, who account for 62% of respondents who say ‘very important.’

Concerns about community responsibility are growing in importance too, especially for more mature consumers, who account for 71% of respondents who feel this is ‘very important’. Nearly six in ten consumers (58%) believe stores should support their local areas, and they factor this belief into their selections of grocery retailers.

Forty-eight percent of consumers would like to see ‘more price/cost savings’ at their primary food stores, while 40% would like to see the offering of ‘more locally grown foods’. Also of interest is the desire to see ‘more variety/better assortment/wider choice’ (31%), ‘better customer service/employees’ (24%) and ‘more fresh made foods’ (21%).

As consumers pull back on restaurant visits (33% says they eat out ‘less than once a month’) and find new ways to save, retailers will be in a prime position to meet their changing needs. With most households spending $96 or more each week on groceries, stores that help them save with little compromise will gain a vital edge and help reinforce a long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial.