CHICAGO – “It’s a brave new world of grocery shoppers with nearly everyone getting in on the act of shopping for food,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and chief executive officer of the Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va., during F.M.I. Connect, which was held June 20-22 in Chicago. “The competitive landscape of food retail is undergoing an unprecedented time of change.”
The F.M.I. has been tracking the trends of U.S. grocery shoppers for more than four decades, taking note of where they shop, how they shop and what issues are most important to them as food shoppers. Channel fragmentation in food retail continues, challenging retailers to attract and keep shoppers by accommodating their evolving needs and shopping styles.
Ms. Sarasin shared highlights from the 2016 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, including insights on how the shifting shopper paradigm is impacting purchasing behavior. The report draws on past F.M.I. surveys while highlighting new insights through a combination of quantitative and qualitative research conducted in the first quarter of 2016. New survey data was collected from 2,061 regular shoppers of groceries, 18 years and older.
Approximately 2 of every 10 customers are single shoppers, making the food purchases for his or her single household, according to the study. Another 2 of 10 are sole shoppers, which means they are either single parents shopping for their family or are part of the slim minority of multi-adult households with only one person shouldering the grocery shopping responsibility.
Almost 6 of 10 shoppers — the majority of customers in the aisles — are co-shoppers, representing a part of their household’s food shopping team. Further breaking down the co-shopping group, close to half of them may be designated shared shoppers, meaning they have an intentional equal split in food purchasing duties, with some choosing to shop together, while others opt to equally divide the responsibilities in the way that works for them.
The motivations for sharing the grocery shopping responsibility are unique for each household, and are guided by the intricacies of age and life stage. Many co-shoppers started shopping independently, establishing routines, preferences and tastes long before sharing the endeavor with another shopper, Ms. Sarasin said.
So where are these people shopping? They are visiting a broad array of stores to get their shopping done, according to F.M.I. data. The past 10 years have seen a slow but steady shift of shoppers away from traditional supermarkets as the primary store to other channels. Notably, in the past three years, a significant number of shoppers are no longer claiming any one store as their primary location for groceries.
Among non-traditional food retailers, limited assortment and discount retailers are experiencing an increase in customers. During the same time, many limited assortment retail chains have increased their market presence, aggressively adding stores across the U.S. As these storefronts increase, limited assortment retailers are becoming an affordable, convenient option for consumers to get a significant amount of their grocery shopping done.
There is also a growing on-line shopper. Nearly all of the growth is among occasional shoppers, with 15% of consumers surveyed in 2016 occasionally shopping for groceries on-line, compared to only 11% the previous year.
The new reality is that who shops and how he or she shops is changing. Retailers must change to meet the evolving shoppers’ needs. Manufacturers must also change in regards to product size, formats and marketing. The changes create opportunities for all parties involved — from farm to fork — to help more people engage in food culture and take control of nourishing themselves and their households.