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How Consumer Trends in Grocery Shopping are Changing Retail

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 | Posted in Industry/Consumer Trends by Renee Harrison

For decades, shoppers were loyal to a single store that would fulfill all of their food and beverage needs. Today, they’re far more likely to embrace a variety of retail locations and formats to ensure they get exactly what they want, when they want it. What does this mean for retailers looking to stay one step ahead of consumer trends?

On average, consumers shop at two to three different retail channels to fulfill their grocery needs, according to the Food Marketing Institute — including supermarkets, supercenters, discount,How Consumer Trends in Grocery Shopping Are Changing Retail convenience, club, and e-commerce stores. Considering how shoppers feel about grocery shopping in general, that's more than a little surprising. Nearly half say grocery shopping is a chore they try to spend as little time on as possible, according to Nielsen’s Think Smaller for Big Growth study. If that’s true, then why are so many of them spreading their purchases across multiple retail formats?

First, it’s about priorities. High-quality produce (57%), convenient location (56%), and product availability (54%) are more important to today’s shopper than simply finding the lowest price, according to the Nielsen report. As far as products, 75 percent say produce is the most important, followed by fresh meat, poultry, and seafood (60%). And 67 percent of all shoppers say they actively seek products with healthful ingredients. Combine those preferences with easy access to technology, and you’ve got the most discerning consumer in economic history.

Secondly, it’s about options — and shoppers being overwhelmed by them. Today’s consumer has gotten more specific in their tastes, and they’re no longer impressed with quantity when they value quality much more. As a result, the average square footage of supermarkets has decreased since 2006, and smaller retail formats have begun to thrive, according to Packaged Facts. Large supermarkets and hypermarkets account for 51 percent of global sales, but smaller formats are growing at a faster rate, according to Nielsen’s The Future of Grocery report. In fact, smaller formats have been doubling or more than doubling large supermarkets’ rate of growth year over year.

“Perhaps the new retail mantra should be ‘go small or go home,’ as the ‘bigger is better’ paradigm has been challenged virtually everywhere,” said Steve Matthesen, global president of retail for Nielsen, in their 2016 Think Smaller for Big Growth study.

Lastly, but unsurprisingly, it’s about technology. About 25 percent of shoppers say they order grocery products online, and 55 percent are willing to do so in the future, according to The Future of Grocery report. AmazonFresh, Instacart, and Fresh Direct are just a few of the online grocery retailers capitalizing on shoppers’ desire for variety and convenience. They also have one distinct advantage over brick and mortar retailers: customizable communication. It’s far easier to tailor to customers’ preferences when they’re shopping in an online, data-driven environment. That’s a huge advantage when less than half of shoppers believe their main grocery retailer communicates with them in a relevant way.

But regardless of the format, the fact that high-quality fresh produce remains a top priority for shoppers, combined with the growing importance of quality and convenience presents produce marketers with an opportunity to make visits to the produce aisle more memorable and engaging by providing shoppers with support and guidance on how to incorporate more produce in their lives. 

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