Technology is reshaping how consumers buy food in 2015, Euromontior predicts

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Technology reshapes how consumers buy food, Euromontior predicts

Related tags Consumers Retailing Online shopping Convenience store

Technology is reshaping how consumers discover, evaluate and select food – creating dichotomies to which manufacturers must adapt their marketing and product positioning, a recently released white paper evaluating consumer trends in 2015 by Euromonitor International reveals. 

“The widespread adoption of smartphones … means consumers are able to shop anytime, anywhere and are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of convenience,”​ Daphne Kasriel-Alexander, a consumer trends specialist with Euromonitor notes in the white paper. They also “are keener and more able to express their individuality through consumption via the buying reach of the global internet.”

This means that consumers want to be able to buy anything, but they also do not necessarily want or have the time to comb through everything – creating a dualism in which retailers and brand manufacturers must provide a wide range of well-curated products that provide sufficient selection but still allows for a streamlined shopping experience.

Online shopping also creates unique opportunities for start-ups or manufacturers without broad distribution to still reach interested consumers, although it takes more effort on both their parts.

Responding to consumer demand for easier shopping online, more retailers are entering the space with a wide variety of models ranging from online ordering and free delivery to click-and-collect programs, according to recent market analysis. Projections estimate the online grocery shopping channel will grow more than 23% annually from 2013 to 2018 to reach a projected $100 billion globally. (Read more about the channel’s potential HERE​.) 

Brick-and-mortar is not going away

While “online shopping has reshaped consumers’ buying habits … it is not a substitute for the experience of shopping in stores,”​ which affords consumers the ability to explore through touch, sight and smell, according to the Euromonitor white paper.

Kasriel-Alexander cites a survey by management consultants A. T. Kearney that found 90% of shoppers prefer brick-and-mortar stores across demographics and age groups.

In particular, “‘real world’ food shopping seems to be going back in time, with more shoppers appearing to prefer the simplicity and convenience of nearby shopping over choice,”​ Kasriel-Alexander notes.

She explains that these shoppers increasingly “top-up”​ on food by shopping more frequently for fewer items rather than making fewer, larger trips. This style of shopping is more conducive to convenience stores, which amassed $25 billion in sales in 2014, according to Euromonitor. This makes the channel more important to a wide variety of food marketers, including higher-end and natural options that might not have previously considered the channel. (Learn more about why and how natural channel superstar ALO Drink is expanding into c-stores HERE​.) 

“In many countries, the convenience store is thriving. Small shops in petrol stations, pharmacy chains and discount shops, barely developed until recently are more in demand in capital cities”​ in emerging countries and the U.K., where sales in c-stores is projected to increase 2.5% in 2015 compared to only 0.2% in grocery retailers, according to the report.

Technology still influences purchases at brick-and-mortar stores

Just because some consumers prefer brick-and-mortar stores does not mean they are fully disengaging with technology while they shop. Increasingly, consumers opt to research the quality of foods that they are considering buying, according to Euromonitor.

For example, it says in 2015 more consumers will use smart phone applications to scan food barcodes to learn more about their nutritional value and how they fit into an overall diet. One such app, FoodSwitch, gives consumers guidance on scanned packed food in the form of traffic lights. The Environmental Working Group also created an app that evaluates the health status of food on a scale of one to ten. (Read more about EWG’s controversial rating system HERE​.) 

Consumers also are checking online to see what other shoppers say about products, to discover recipes and identify what other ingredients they might want to buy to accompany foods, Euromonitor notes.

Manufacturers can help guide online influencers by sending samples of the products for reviews and sponsoring social events that bring together digital decision-makers who will then tweet, Instagram and blog about the experience, the paper suggests.

Pinterest increasingly is becoming an influential platform for curators to advocate for foods and brands by educating potential consumers about recipes, uses for ingredients and presentation, the paper adds.

Consumers also are using technology and social medial as a megaphone for pressuring the food industry and others into greater transparency and into altering product formulations, Kasriel-Alexander notes.

Manufacturers are responding by explaining on their webpages where their ingredients come from and telling a story about how their products are produced.

Other trends in 2015

Emerging out of the social media sphere is a sharing mentality that will continue in 2015 and into which food manufacturers and retailers can tap to boost sales, according to the Euromonitor trends report.

The Coca-Cola Company successfully used the emerging sharing culture, in which many consumers care more about access than ownership, with its “Share a Coke”​ campaign featuring people’s first names and positive words on bottles and cans.

“In 2015, the ‘sharing economy’ is growing and disrupting the way in which individuals think of space and ownership…. Pooling resources in various ways is becoming integral to urban life and is likely to impact future cities,”​ writes Kasriel-Alexander.

This trend is manifesting in the food space through a desire by consumers to eat together and share food, creating new opportunities for retailers who offer not only prepared food but space in which customers can buy and share food in the store.  (Discover more about the rise of grocerants HERE​.) 

Consumers also want to share their resources with less fortunate people and in 2015 will increasingly choose to do this by buying brands that are active in social good – either through profit sharing, increased sustainability or benefiting the larger community in another way, Euromonitor notes.

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