Grocery Shopping Habits: Who Buys What and How?

shutterstock_77292328Grocery shopping habits change ever so slightly from year to year, but we are beginning to see some interesting shifts and many are positive.  Who’s driving the cart, what are they buying and why?

What influences our purchasing decisions?

  • Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 6.31.06 PM

    Shopwell App

    Smartphone Apps such as Shopwell, Grocery IQ and Fooducate help consumers make simple swaps for healthier selections.  Some like Shopwell event screen out products based on food allergies, your health goals and food preferences.

  • Health plans that focus on wellness and penalties if you don’t tow the line.  Research shows that the younger generation believes in the stick rather than the carrot approach to behavior change.  They’re going to inherit the financial repercussions so I can’t blame them.
  • Social media posts by brands, recipe sites and what your neighbor buys. Pictures of what I ate for dinner, Pinterest recipes and Instagram posts all have us thinking about #whats4dinner 24/7.
  • In-store marketing and deals.  Everyone likes a manager’s special and with less people reading the Sunday paper and couponing, these have become a lot more eye catching as you wheel by.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey asked consumers a series of questions about their shopping habits. They found that over the past year, media have placed a lot of emphasis on what we shouldn’t and should eat. They learned that saturated fat, processed refined grains, added sugars and low-calorie sweeteners are out; whole grains, protein from plant sources and natural sugars are in.

According to the IFIC study, 47% of Americans are looking at food labels, up from 40% in 2015. They tend to look for the absence of certain ingredients, rather than the presence of others. For example, 35% of Americans define a “healthy” food as one that doesn’t contain an excess of certain components, such as fat and sugar. The IFIC also found that:

  • 57% of Americans are trying to lose weight
    • 23% of those trying to lose weight want to lose up to 10 pounds
    • 34% of those trying to lose weight want to lose more than 10 pounds
  • 25% of Americans have changed their diet in the past year by eating more fruits and vegetables or by drinking more water or low-to no-calorie beverages.
  • 70% of consumers trust the food safety of foods produced in their region of the country, while only 24% trust the safety of food from another country.
  • 55% of consumers trust the safety of a local restaurant while only 49% trust the food safety of a national chain.

According to the Food Market Institute’s 2014 US Grocery Shopper Trends Reports, millennials (those born after 1980 and before 2000) comprise the generation that is changing how we grocery shop the most. They are more apt to:

  • Shop based on the needs of a specific recipe rather than stockpiling food in the freezer and pantry. They enjoy watching food shows and cooking trendy new food items.
  • Split shopping duties between sexes, with 40% of men saying that they’re the ones pushing the cart.
  • Less apt to rely on a single store for all of their food shopping.
  • Less brand loyal and more willing to shop alternatives.
  • Interested in organic, natural, ethnic, and specialty items.
  • Tend to prefer brands that have a great social and media presence and or support a philanthropic cause.

The checkout is the most dreaded and boring part of the shopping experience. I personally become especially inpatient when the lines are more than two people deep. Shoppers cope with their Smartphones, point of sale items (AKA gift cards, super glue and mini-flashlights for your key chain) and tabloids. According to Font-End Focus research study in 2014 that while 84% of customers check out these items, fewer than one in five people buy anything, and more than two-thirds perceive them to be unnecessary. I particularly favor the grocery stores that have transitioned this area to healthier bars, fresh fruits and nuts.

While online grocery shopping is a growing trend, the majority of consumers still prefer to shop in store. According to the 2015 Nielsen report titled, “The Future of Grocery,” while 55% of consumers say they are willing to order groceries online for home delivery, only 12% are actually doing so. My husband is one of them. He favors the Meijer order-on-line with curb-side pickup. Contrast this to China, where 46% of groceries are bought online. In the United States, consumers are willing to research online, but the majority still wants to see, touch and seal the deal, in store.

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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