Shoppers Switch to Save: Study

DALLAS — The percentage of U.S. consumers that switched away from their primary grocery store in an effort to save money doubled during 2010, according to the sixth annual Power of Meat report, presented here at the Annual Meat Conference, a production of the American Meat Institute and Food Marketing Institute. (See Page 22 for more news from the study.) In a regular year, when the economy is normal,

DALLAS — The percentage of U.S. consumers that switched away from their primary grocery store in an effort to save money doubled during 2010, according to the sixth annual “Power of Meat” report, presented here at the Annual Meat Conference, a production of the American Meat Institute and Food Marketing Institute. (See more about the study [4] here.)

“In a regular year, when the economy is normal, about 3% of people switch primary stores,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of market research group 2010 Analytics, and former director of research for FMI. “Right now, that number stands at about 6%. So, it has doubled, but it's still only 6% of shoppers who are willing to change primary stores to save money.”

Consumers also made more trips to secondary supermarkets last year — reversing a trend that had been in decline for several years. Roerink attributed the change to gas prices, which spiked during the early stage of the recession in 2007 and 2008, and then normalized during 2009 and 2010. So, it was no longer cost prohibitive for shoppers to make multiple trips to find the best deals.

Otherwise, the report offered several indications that U.S. grocery spending is on the rise. Total average grocery spending increased to $96 per week, which was faster than the rate of inflation for food consumed at home — indicating that there was a real rise in food spending, beyond inflation-driven increases.

Of course, many U.S. consumers are still struggling. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,200 respondents to the 2011 Power of Meat survey said that they spent less at the supermarket each week during 2010 than they did during 2009. This represented a significant improvement from last year's study, when 45% of shoppers said they were budgeting less for food each week than they did the prior year.

Other data indicated that consumers who made less money in 2010 than 2009 were forced to cut their food budgets even further last year, while shoppers whose incomes remained stable seem to be tiring of some money-saving tactics.

For example, 72% of respondents to the 2010 survey said they liked to purchase meat in bulk to save. In the latest survey, however, only 57% said they had been buying in bulk to save — a decline of 15%. Bulk meat purchases tend to be a tactic of more affluent shoppers, Roerink noted.