Grocery shopping in 2014: diversified and fragmented, says FMI

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

The very idea of a primary store appears to be giving way to a growing reliance on multiple stores, as 9% of shoppers claim no primary store. On average, they report using 2.5 stores at least fairly often, FMI found.
The very idea of a primary store appears to be giving way to a growing reliance on multiple stores, as 9% of shoppers claim no primary store. On average, they report using 2.5 stores at least fairly often, FMI found.

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Not only are today's consumers less likely to rely on a primary store for food shopping, but they're sharing shopping duties and planning for specific meals rather than stocking up on food, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI)’s annual analysis of U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, done in collaboration with the Hartman Group. 

For the report, new survey data was collected from 2,116 primary shoppers in the US between the ages of 18 and 74. The data was supplemented by additional analysis using US Census and USDA data sets on consumer spending, health, and eating, and 2013-2014 Hartman Group ethnographic research into eating and shopping.

Supermarkets accounted for 54% level of channel share (down slightly from 56% in 2011), with supercenters down to 22% (from 28%) and each of the other categories, including discount and specialty—registering 1% lower from the positions held the year before. And yet, the drop in supercenter as primary store has not played out as a gain for supermarkets, or other channels for that matter, as the very idea of a primary store appears to be giving way to a growing reliance on multiple stores, according to the survey.

Nearly one in 10 shoppers claim no primary store

Shoppers on average report using 2.5 stores at least fairly often, perhaps owing in part to retail channels outside grocery broadening their food offerings to compete for a slice of market share (see here​).

“Clearly, the traditional supermarket picked up a few points in all that movement, but what is most interesting is the leap in the number of people who claim they have no primary store,” ​said FMI president and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin.“When FMI first started listing this option in 2011, only 2% said they had no primary store. This year, 9% claim no primary store.”

This diversification of channel usage is being compounded further by the growing fragmentation of shopping responsibilities within the American household. The survey found that men now account for more than 40% of those who claim substantial responsibility for the household’s grocery shopping. But this shift refers more to households sharing shopping duties, rather than more men becoming the primary shopper.

How the next generation plans for meals

How consumers plan for shopping occasions varies significantly by age group and has shifted along with macro-changes affecting eating culture. In this era of instant gratification, consumers want whatever food they want to be available whenever they want it—and the retail landscape is shifting to meet those needs.

Unlike shoppers in the over-50 segment, who primarily build their shopping lists throughout the week and monitor what they have enough of, Millennials create their lists right before going to the store. For younger generations especially, planning for a shopping trip is much more likely to be built around a specific meal or other eating occasion rather than “stocking up” the pantry with basics and trusted items that can be used to create a meal later on. Indeed, a quarter of all meals eaten by twenty-somethings include items purchased during the same day, according to Hartman Group data.

Millennials tend to rely on recipes and other eating inspirations to develop a shopping list of ingredients instead of primarily relying on routine household food items. They are the first generation that is just as likely to build their list around recipes (43%) or a plan of specific meals (36%) as around sales specials promoted by the store (37%).

Healthy food shoppers tend to seek out sets of claims in tandem

It’s no secret that health and wellness have become key drivers of today’s food culture. For a growing number of consumers, health is equated with less processed. Indeed, many have become more savvy readers of product labels, avoiding foods that contain preservatives, chemicals, long or unpronounceable ingredient lists and artificial sounding ingredients (think high-fructose corn syrup and azodicarbonamide​). Indeed, 28% of consumers said they seek out foods and beverages that are minimally processed, with 26% saying they look for only ingredients they recognize, 25% looking for locally grown food and 25% looking for foods with the shortest ingredient lists, according to 2013 figures from Hartman Group.

Shoppers tend to seek out sets of claims in tandem, depending on their underlying interests and values (e.g., positive nutrition, minimal processing, heart health). For example, those who look for high fiber also tend to seek out whole grain. Those who seek low calories, on the other hand, also tend to look for low sugar and low carb.

This trend toward fresh, less processed food has brought the store perimeter back into focus. The vast majority of consumers (90%) say they purchase locally grown products at least occasionally. The main drivers of engagement with locally grown products are perceived quality of product and local economics—with 86% of shoppers saying they consider locally grown products fresh and seasonal, thus better quality and more nutritious. Sixty-one percent cited taste and 56% cited a desire to know the source of the product as a key driver to buying local.

By increasing selection of and calling attention to locally sourced products (taking a page from natural foods giant Whole Foods Market's book), retailers can leverage the value of fresh foods and quality products to build trust and demonstrate that they understand and match up with consumer values.

To access the complete report, visit​.

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1 comment

supermarkets set to re-occupy main streets

Posted by wayne roberts,

Supermarkets deserted main streets during the 1950s, leaving them to decay as they anchored new plazas and malls. Now it turns out that having to drive to supermarket for the next meal is pretty stupid (one city car trip in 5 is for food), and people with time problems want their food closer to them. Let's leave main street to the mom and pops who kept the main street alive.

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