Supermarket trends

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Grocery shoppers want “a clear and honest experience” with their food, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). And to guarantee such an experience, shoppers are demanding transparency from players all along the food supply chain, FMI said in its “2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report, presented at the FMI Future Leaders eXperience conference in Chicago earlier this month.

“Consumers want closer connections to their food. At a time when many cite an oversized and out-of-balance food system as an underlying cause of social and environmental ills, the desire for closer connection to food isn’t just about resizing the food system to human scale — it’s about safety, health and ethics,” the report states.

Five categories of transparency are identified in the report:

• Easy access to relevant product information.
• Clear quality standards.
• Productivity and ­accountability.
• Fair treatment of employees.
• Openness about business ­practices.

FMI included a “word cloud” in the report depicting the words grocery shoppers use when talking about transparency, with font size corresponding to frequency. “Open” was the biggest word in the cloud, followed by “public,” “honesty,” “visible,” “clear” and “information.”
FMI said that over the past year it had engaged food shoppers in conversations about these objectives under the rubric of ­transparency.

“Industry talk of ‘transparency’ has referenced a disparate amalgam of priorities, perspectives and approaches, sometimes tied only loosely to consumer needs,” the report says.

“What do shoppers expect from a transparent food retailer, and how can stores best address these expectations to enhance their relationships with shoppers?”

Coming up with answers begins with the realization that, for shoppers, “transparency means context beyond the package,” FMI noted.

“Retailers who inform, reveal and connect with shoppers in support of safety, health and wellness, eating inspiration and ethnics are well positioned to build trust and loyalty,” FMI ­commented.

Shoppers want more help from retailers about “the story behind the food and how it’s produced,” according to the report, which warned that it’s not sufficient for suppliers and retailers to merely provide “undisputed facts about nutrition within products.”

Millennials are most eager among shoppers to access additional product information using digital tools, according to the report, which was prepared in collaboration with food industry consultant The Hartman Group.

The 2017 report also noted a continuation of trends identified last year, including the “seismic shift” in the profile of the typical grocery shopper as more people than ever shop for food. FMI attributed the trend to the confluence of demographic, cultural, technological and economic ­factors.

The report also noted that shopper loyalty continues to fragment across multiple channels. “As recently as 2005, a supermarket was named as the shopper’s primary store by two-thirds of shoppers,” FMI said. This year, just 47% of shoppers assigned primary-store status to a supermarket. Nearly one in 10 were unable to identify any of the stores in their rotation as their primary store.

The report identified supermarkets as among grocery shoppers’ most trusted allies when it comes to food safety and health and wellness. As shoppers seek fresh, less-processed claims and categories, they rely on food stores to be on their side in meeting their wellness needs, according to the report. Grocery’s breadth of health-positioned packaged goods are complemented by the convenience of fresh prepared food options, which are perceived as healthier than restaurant fare. Best-by/use-by terminology is consistent with shopper perceptions of quality and safety, FMI said.

The report found that family meals are hindered more by the diverse schedules of family members than by diverse food needs.



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