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FMI: Food shoppers are widening their concept of value

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The latest consumer research by FMI – The Food Industry Association indicates that consumers are approaching grocery shopping with a new, broader concept of value than the traditional focus on price and quantity. Understanding the shift, which appears to be related largely to generational change, is essential for the food industry, says Leslie Sarasin, president and chief executive officer of FMI.

The recent evolution — and growing complexity — of shoppers’ notions of value are detailed in FMI’s latest survey for its U.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2023 series. Although value in the grocery world has often been understood in simple terms of price and quantity — more for less — shoppers are increasingly expanding their notions of value to include such factors as quality, relevance, convenience and experience.

“Understanding how dramatically grocery shoppers are expanding their definition of value is imperative for the food industry as consumers adjust their purchasing patterns and habits amid continued economic uncertainty,” says Sarasin. “This report highlights that price is not necessarily the be-all-end-all when it comes to shopper perceptions of value, and also that the notion of value itself has become an increasingly more complex, subjective and even personal calculation.”

To be sure, consumers across all income and demographic levels still say that getting good value is a priority, but what that means is changing to a more holistic concept that goes beyond the traditional price-to-quantity ratio. Most important, it is younger shoppers who are driving the change.

For example, 62% of Millennials increasingly say they prefer to minimize food waste by purchasing only what they need, a strategy that speaks to relevance. In addition, younger consumers consider convenience and an enjoyable shopping experience important sources of value.

In fact, 47% of Millennials said they are willing to spend more money to avoid shopping at multiple stores, while 50% said they would spend more to shop at more pleasant stores, compared to only 16% of baby boomers who held that sentiment. Moreover, despite the lingering weight of inflation, younger shoppers expressed more willingness to buy the best-quality items regardless of price: 52% of Millennials and 42% of Gen Z consumers expressed that attitude, while only 22% of baby boomers agreed.

While inflation eased somewhat in April, it is still a major factor for most consumers. No fewer than 75% of shoppers polled expressed concern with rising food prices, and they are using two main strategies to cope: looking for deals and buying more store brands.

“Loyalty has a distinct connection to value, so understanding value from a consumer perspective is essential,” says Sarasin. “Retailers can differentiate themselves by thinking about value more holistically. Developing a unique identity by embracing multiple dimensions of value that go beyond specific categories or departments can help retailers stand out by standing for more than just good prices and deals — although both remain a top priority.”

In addition to evolving consumer notions of value, health and well-being have been a major focus for the food industry this year following last year’s historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. At that event, FMI unveiled ambitious commitments by the industry for 2023 and beyond in an effort to help identify solutions for ending hunger, improving nutrition and reducing diet-related diseases.

According to Sarasin, in the months leading up to the conference, FMI members worked hard to identify a set of bold but achievable commitments that outline steps the industry can take to help reduce food and nutrition insecurity in this country. Those commitments align with the pillars that the White House identified as priorities: improve food access, reduce diet-related disease and empower consumers to make healthy food choices.

Specifically, the commitments included donating more than 2 billion meals this year to food banks and other organizations; making robust investments in programs, initiatives, infrastructure enhancements and partnerships to improve food availability in areas of limited access to food; expanding access to and leveraging federal feeding programs and food as medicine programs; and reaching 100 million consumers with evidence-based messages and educational tools to support healthy eating patterns.

“Of course, we continue to encourage the physical, mental and emotional health of our nation through the FMI Foundation’s support of the Family Meals Movement,” Sarasin adds. “Family meals are proven to be more nutritional, to enhance better social functioning and to improve mental health — all outcomes encouraged by the White House Conference.”

Sarasin noted that FMI is currently collecting data from its members on all the various ways they are addressing issues of hunger, health and nutrition, and hopes to announce its metrics on or before the one year anniversary of the White House Conference in September.


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