ARLINGTON, Va. — Many of the attributes consumers are looking for at their supermarkets today are likely to stick even after the economy recovers, according to the 2010 Consumer Survey Report from the National Grocers Association here.
The report is based on feedback gathered on behalf of NGA by SupermarketGuru.com and sponsored by ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., from 2,438 shoppers surveyed between November 2009 and last month.
“It's imperative that food stores align their offers with what people want today,” the study said, “because this could well be what people want for years to come — competitive prices, attention to food safety, healthful assortments, great fruits and vegetables, lots of nutritional information, personal safety outside the store, frequent cardholder promotions, speedy checkouts, and support of local growers and other nearby food suppliers.”
Among respondents, 51% said low prices were “very important,” and 45% said they were “somewhat important.” Among those from the three lowest income levels (below $45,000 a year), 56% cited low prices as “very important”; among households with one or two people, the response was 61%; and among households with no children living at home, it was 64%.
When consumers were asked to rate their primary store's performance on low price, 52% said “good,” and 23% each said “excellent” or “fair” — the identical responses to the year-ago survey.
On the subject of private label, 44% of respondents said it was “somewhat important,” 25% said “very important” and 24% said “not too important” — a possible sign consumers are tired of denying themselves for so long, the study noted, “or if they're already trading down from restaurant meals, they at least want the name brands they enjoy,” it added.
Although those who rated private label “somewhat important” or “very important” totaled 69% in both the 2009 and 2010 surveys, the number who rated private-label “very important” dropped from 27% a year ago, “[which] could suggest there's a limit to the drawing power of private label, at least for the higher-income groups that could afford to spend more,” the study pointed out.
The number of consumers who rated locally grown produce or other locally packaged foods as “very important” rose 5% to 41%, which signals “[that] consumers want to support local resources, and they want fresh, safe foods. ‘Local’ has gone mainstream,” the survey noted, “and the definition has expanded to ‘locale,’ where branding identifies benefits from U.S.-grown products.”
Among other survey results:
The vast majority of respondents — 85% — said they purchase most of their foods from grocery stores or supermarkets, compared with 84% in the prior year's survey; of the 7% who cited mass merchandisers as their primary food source, most were shoppers in the three lowest-income tiers.
High-quality fruits and vegetables were “very important” to 91% of respondents — by far the highest consensus on any measure affecting where people buy most of their groceries, the study said, compared with 76% who cited high-quality meats as “very important,” 46% who cited high-quality seafood as “very important,” 43% who rated fast checkouts, 42% who cited fresh delicatessens, 38% who cited high-quality bakeries, 28% who cited frequent-shopper programs, 26% who cited organic products, 10% who cited in-store pharmacies and 3% who cited gasoline.
Asked what improvements they would like to see at their supermarket, 46% said better prices or cost savings (down from 48% in 2009), 41% named locally grown foods and 30% said more variety.
Fourteen percent said they spend between $96 and $105 a week on food (up 1% from the year-ago survey), and 14% said they spend more than $136 (down 2% from 2009).
Asked what factors influence their shopping behavior, 73% said they stock up when they find a bargain (compared with 72% a year ago), 66% said they look in newspapers for specials (compared with 62% a year ago) and 65% said they utilize cents-off coupons received in the mail or found in newspapers and magazines (up from 64% a year ago).
IMPORTANT FACTORS IN DECIDING WHERE TO SHOP FOR GROCERIES
|High-quality fruits and vegetables||100%*|
|A clean, neat store||99%|
|Selling products before expiration date||98%|
|Accurate shelf tags||97%|
|Courteous, friendly employees||94%|
|Items on sale or money-saving specials||94%|
|Personal safety outside the store||91%|
|Store layout makes it easy to shop||91%|
SOURCE: 2010 NGA Consumer Survey Report
*Percent ranking “very important” or “somewhat important”