The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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

SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel

SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel

Shoppers and Trends

October 26, 2008

 When it comes to food selection, taste matters most. A recent consumer panel from RDA and found that 88% of consumers identify taste as the number one reason for choosing certain foods over others. Other top reasons include nutritional information at 79%, ingredients at 75%, health attributes at 65% and brand name at 46%.

The online survey, which talked to 748 shoppers, was designed to help retailers and CPG brands learn how to balance the needs and desires of shoppers with operational demands. While the shoppers interviewed were more food involved, health involved, and internet savvy (with a higher income and education) than the average American, survey results provide a telling snapshot of what consumers think about when they shop.

Since consumers look for a guarantee of quality and value in their purchases, brand success has become critical for both retailers and manufacturers. Indeed, brand recognition was decisive for shoppers, with almost half the group (46%) reporting that they buy “only best-known brands” and 41% reporting that they buy “best-known brands for entertaining.” A mere 19% “only buy less expensive brands.”

Quality is also key in defining a great shopping trip. A “clean, neat store” came in second at 94% and “high quality meats” and “high quality seafood” tied for third at 75%, but consumers selected “high quality produce” (92%) as the top factor contributing to a premier shopping experience. Consistent with other industry surveys, consumers are duly impressed by a well-maintained, stocked and designed produce department.

“The color, aroma and fresh appeal of the produce section,” says, “often sets the stage for the rest of the shopping experience. Consumers enter the store at produce, enjoy the section, and then consequently spend more time in the rest of store. This concept can be applied to other areas of a store and further translate to increased market basket size.”

In terms of the factors that most influence a food purchase, the desire to vary the menu comes in at 77%. Discovery of a new recipe follows close behind at 63%. Interestingly, health concerns (58%) – the top factor from the last five SG panels – dropped to number three on the list. This finding suggests that, having made their personal nutrition corrections, consumers are moving beyond those issues to seek out more varied and tasty menus.

“Boredom” is becoming an increasingly popular trend among shoppers, who, at 48%, identify a lack of interest in their current menus as a strong motivator for buying a new food product. The propensity to try new foods (75%), tendency to buy a trusted brand (69%), and inclination to search for healthier items (67%) represent additional motivators.

“Boredom might not be a sexy-sounding trend,” says, “However, it offers the food world a unique opportunity to strengthen their relationships with shoppers by offering more variety. Brown bag school lunches can especially benefit.”

Although “value” didn’t make the top five reasons list for choosing foods in this panel, SG predicts that it will rise in importance over the next few months and years – especially in light of the current economic crisis.

Similarly, rising transportation costs, combined with a growing awareness of corporate sustainability programs, will fuel the expansion of the “local” vs. “organic” subcategory. In fact, in the current SG panel, 36% of respondents found the offering of “local” foods at retail to be “very important.” Only 6% found this offering to be “not at all important.”

Shoppers purchase their foods holistically – looking at everything from a product’s exotic appeal to its “green” checklist. As shoppers move away from dining out of home to more in-home meals and homemade lunches, shoppers are likely to refocus, search for more value-oriented alternatives and seek out more creative cooking ideas. Today’s shopper is complex, says SG, and truly buys food for more than just sustenance.

“There are real opportunities here for retailers and brands to work together,” says “Improved signage, color of display cases, color hue and warmth of lighting can enhance the store’s connection to the shopper. CPG brands can foster innovation in taste, recipes, nutrition and packaging.”