Unilever study reveals shifts in purchasing patterns

by Keith Nunes
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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — A survey of more than 47,000 consumers conducted by Unilever outlines how consumers are shifting their purchasing patterns. More than 30% said they are eating at home more and eating out less, and 40% "feel worse off" than a year ago.

The research, conducted between March 14 and April 3 and available in a report titled "Winning shoppers in turbulent times — A Unilever trip management report," showed that consumers are closely watching their budgets, but will search out "trusted brands" throughout the retail environment.

But the survey respondents said they would like consumer goods manufacturers and retailers to be creative in product packaging and sales approaches. In an effort for manufacturers to manage costs, consumers said they were open to options such as larger pack sizes, small package sizes at lower price points or moderately reduced package sizes with the same price point.

"Consumers are clearly feeling the effects of a perfect storm of challenging economic events such as the mortgage crisis, stock market volatility, and rising energy costs," said Lisa Klauser, vice-president of consumer and customer solutions for Unilever U.S. "They are reacting by taking a new approach to shopping as our study found that quick trips to the grocery store are declining and major stock-up trips that allow consumers to replenish their cupboards for a long period of time are on the upswing."

Other survey findings include:

• The top two savings tactics used by shoppers include "only buy when it’s on sale" and "use coupons whenever I buy this product."

• The top food categories shoppers said they will not "abandon" include canned vegetables, fresh meat, seafood and margarine.

• The top categories where consumers said they would reduce expenditures if the economy continues to struggle include cookies, frozen dinners and soda pop.

"The reality is that consumers still need to feed their families during these tough economic times," Ms. Klauser said. "The challenge for them is how to get it done in the most economic way possible without sacrificing quality."

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