The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has tracked U.S. grocery shopping habits for decades, and in recent years it’s partnered with the Hartman Group for this research. Together, they recently shared U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends for 2017.
The key findings are about channel fragmentation, e-commerce, transparency and retailer promotion of shopper wellness. For food and grocery advertisers, increasing opportunities exist for advertising to:
- Specialty store and online-only shoppers
- Shoppers looking for healthy food to make at home
- Busy parents
State of the Marketplace
Among U.S. adults, 84 percent take on 50 percent or more of the grocery shopping responsibilities. For now, women do more of the grocery shopping – 90 percent to men’s 78 percent.
Men are doing more grocery shopping than before, however. In multi-person households with co-shoppers, men are 8 percent more likely to be the primary shopper than they were in 2016. They’re also 7 percent less likely to be the secondary shopper.
Traditional grocery stores are losing popularity (down 2 percent since 2016 and 20 percent since 2005), and the use of multiple channels (organic, ethnic, online-only, convenience, etc.) is gaining popularity.
Online-only retailers are used by 25 percent of shoppers – almost 50 percent when we look at Millennials specifically. This is an 80 percent increase in just two years for Millennials, and that trend is driving growth for online-only retailers.
Millennials tend to buy certain products online, like baby and pet food, cleaning products, snacks and sweets. They’re less likely to buy fresh produce, meat, seafood, baked goods and dairy or non-prescription drugs online.
Shopper Trends and Values: Food Safety
Shoppers trust food retailers to sell them safe products, but increasingly rely on government agencies to ensure food safety. Since 2009, that reliance has gone up 20+ percent.
Over the last year, 15 percent of shoppers have stopped buying certain products because of safety concerns. Those safety concerns range from specific recalls to general concerns over the impacts of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, treatment of animals and sustainability. Products some shoppers avoid include:
- Chicken, seafood and meat
- Canned foods
- Bagged salad greens
- Foods from outside the U.S.
Just under 25 percent of shoppers avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and another 18 percent try to minimize the amount of GMO produce they buy. The reasons for avoidance are varied, including personal health and the desire for transparency around food purchases.
A full 94 percent of shoppers always or occasionally purchase locally grown products. Knowing something is grown locally contributes to its transparency, and generally means that food item is fresh and in season.
Many shoppers would like more information printed on product packaging, especially about the methods of production. Perhaps some of this could go into ads as well.
Shopper Trends and Values: Health and Wellness
In 2017, 78 percent of shoppers are concerned about the nutritional content of their food. This is a slight dip from previous years, when total concern hovered around 82 percent. Specific concerns include getting too much of something they should avoid and not getting enough of a needed nutrient.
When people shop, they look to the perimeter of the store for fresh and less-processed food. Below is a breakdown of what they seek:
While shoppers’ concern about personal health has decreased a touch, 72 percent still don’t think they get enough good nutrition from food they eat at home. At the same time, 88 percent believe eating at home is still healthier than eating at a restaurant.
Dinner is the meal most likely to be eaten at home with family in multi-person households (with or without kids). On average, people eat 7.5 meals at home with family each week.
Eating meals at home and with family members is considered very important by 63 percent of U.S households (85 percent of those with kids and 55 percent of those without kids). A range of obstacles make it difficult to do this, mainly differing schedules.
A great deal of cooking gets “outsourced” to grocery stores (think rotisserie chickens and sushi) at least some of the time for 67 percent of households with kids and 44 percent of households without kids. This is an opportunity for brands to target busy families and adults who aren’t fond of cooking but appreciate less-processed items.
Transparency and Tips
Against a backdrop of skepticism toward food manufacturers, restaurants and even grocery stores, advertisers must see transparency as currency in the digital age (according to the FMI report). Shoppers have a lot of options, and information moves fast, so they see transparency as a shortcut to having confidence in a complex food system.
Based on the trends highlighted in the report, food and grocery advertisers should focus on some specific areas, where habits are shifting and preferences are changing:
- Target men increasingly as primary household shoppers and shopping experts.
- Exist in advertising spaces for specialty and organic products, branching out from a supermarket mentality.
- Speak to Millennials if you’re an online-only retailer – they’re your largest generational segment.
- Include content that promotes food safety, nutritious food, locally grown produce and ethical practices in your ad strategy.
- Provide solutions to busy shoppers looking to do more cooking and eating at home with family.
For guidance and ideas on optimizing food and grocery advertising for the current trends, check out Wordstream’s 10 Tips for Food & Restaurant Advertising and eMarketer’s conversation about Personalizing the Grocery Shopping Experience.
Way back in 2015, we speculated about the future of grocery shopping and how advertisers could prepare. Revisit that piece for thoughts on using the right ad channels, subscription services and shopper convenience.