LAS VEGAS — Saving money remains the top concern of supermarket shoppers, according to the latest customer survey from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
Saving money remains the top concern of supermarket shoppers, according to the latest customer survey from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
The survey, whose results were presented at the association’s recent convention here, also showed that the amount of money the average consumer spends on groceries in all store formats has declined for the third straight year.
“How consumers interact with our industry has gone through a sea change due to the harsh economic times,” FMI president and chief executive officer Leslie Sarasin said during a presentation at the FMI 2010 show. “It’s as though the recession created a savvier shopper, one that will require all our leadership skills to serve. I doubt our industry can expect to get by with what has worked in the past — we must continue to be willing to do things differently. We must adapt.
“This more informed customer is one whose expectations and needs are changing rapidly. Their preferences can create instant challenges on the front lines. It probably means they’ll feel less loyalty; it certainly means they will seek more perfection.”
The survey found that 52% of shoppers say they are spending less on groceries than they did before. In order to keep the reins on their spending, 77% say they use shopping lists all the time, and the same proportion buy only what they need. And 45% say they strive to buy products when they are on sale.
Coupons are also enjoying a resurgence in popularity, according to the FMI survey. The use of coupons has increased 11% since 2009. Print remains the most popular source of coupons, used by 61% of survey respondents, while the Internet is the coupon destination of 32% of respondents. In addition, 23% of consumers say they check retailers’ web sites for specials, and 54% say they are comparing prices in stores, up from 50% in 2009.
Low prices are the most important factor consumers consider in deciding where to shop, the FMI found, followed by the quality of fresh foods on offer and the availability of sales and specials.
One bit of good news for the supermarket industry is that American consumers are increasingly interested in preparing and eating home-cooked meals.
"Your customers continue to eat out less often, a saving measure still practiced by more than two-thirds of shoppers, for the third year in a row," Sarasin told food retailers and suppliers at the show. "In fact, 85% cook at home more than three times per week. More Gen X and Gen Y customers are preparing meals at home than a year ago, and many are even eating lunch at work with food prepared at home."
The trends involving the members of Generation Y, a larger demographic group than even the baby boom generation, could be particularly significant in pointing toward the industry’s future.
"This group is beginning to raise families and will likely spend more food dollars than any other generation in our history," Sarasin says. "This trend signals a major opportunity for the industry. This is our moment to lead in helping families return to the kitchen."
The FMI survey also looked at the competitive battle between supercenters and supermarkets. Consumers see supermarkets as more convenient and cleaner, offering greater variety and higher-quality fresh foods and store brands. Supercenters tend to win on price, however.