Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Top Four Issues Worrying Food Shoppers Struggling with Austerity

According to the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s Shopper Track research the top four areas where cash strapped consumers are seeking help are:

1.       Sticking to a budget

2.      Reducing waste

3.      Making shopping a less tedious experience

4.      Understanding enough about product provenance to make the ethical choice

Joanne Denney-Finch, from IGD, speaking at their annual convention went on to explain what the frustrations are.

What shoppers do not want to see as they grapple with budgets is tinkering around with a product to hit a price point. So reducing weights or quality is a no no.

They are not happy with offers which encourage multiple purchase such as 3 for the price of two, or two for a discounted price.

What they do want are straight price reductions, and more advance notice of offers to enable them to plan better. They would also like to be able to keep a running total of spend as they go round the store to avoid the shock that can often come when the final bill is presented at the checkout.

Shoppers also say that branded budget ranges would be welcome as an alternative to buying a retailer’s own brand.

On the subject of waste, shoppers would like to see re-sealable packs, and a longer shelf life on products, as well as a reduction in the number of multi buy offers which they feel encourage over-purchase and often result in product being thrown away.

Food shopping remains a harassing experience for most, with crowds and a bewildering choice being the main sources of angst. This should point to an opportunity for online shopping but it seems that a half of all online shoppers have stopped buying this way, with a third of those finding the whole experience too tedious.

And so to provenance. Denney-Smith does not actually say that consumers will walk away from a product if they do not understand where it has come from. Rather, that giving information about provenance is a vital way of encouraging brand loyalty. She cites the Patagonia clothing website as a good example of how to do this.

So how much of this shopper wish list are we likely to see during our forthcoming supermarket trips?

It would be a brave supermarket that stopped multi- buy promotions in favour of straight money off, because the multi-buy means that shoppers spend more money in the store which helps boost turnover. This in turn boosts market share, and makes a contribution to covering overheads. Equally, anything which means shoppers limit the number of trips they make to a store is bad news as once in, many shoppers are likely to be tempted to buy something which could be classed as unnecessary.

Shoppers’ requests for budget brands are admirably served by Aldi whose whole reason for being rests on just that, but it is unlikely that major branded manufacturers will move this way. It is too costly to build a separate brand, particularly one with a low price.

The ability to keep a running total of the bill whilst going round the store is already available through Waitrose.

So far no supermarket has cracked the code to a pleasurable food shopping experience despite much effort being put in. In fact Sainsbury and Tesco with their emphasis on self serve checkouts and consequent reduction in checkout operators are merely adding to the stress of shopping.

 I have a feeling that communicating provenance will become more widespread. Certainly the technology is available for consumers to find out where there item has come from, whether through a company  websites, or social media like Facebook, or an app on their smartphone, or even through good old fashioned wording on the pack.

The thrust of Joanne Denney-Finch’s speech was that in an age of austerity which shows signs of being around for years, the winners will be those who listen hard to their customers and who are brave enough to pursue radical innovation in response to their customers’ needs. Quite right.


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Manufacturers in the US seem to be ignoring most of the wishes you list from consumers. Products are getting smaller indeed. I can no longer find a 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes as a recipe states - they are now smaller. There is, however, a bit more attention being paid to the source of products. Most produce aisles have signs indicating where the vegetables were grown.

Colette Burke said...

Thank you T.W. Interesting to note that the trends are international,and not just confined to the UK.