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Consumers, hectic lifestyles and food shopping today

4 min read

Food Retail

(Photo: Flickr user juicyrai)

How and where Americans shop for food is changing dramatically, according to The Hartman Group’s latest report, Food Shopping in America 2014. The report reveals the evolving shopping landscape of not only where people shop for food, but who is doing the shopping. As the lines between retail grocery channels grow ever thinner and the tussle for a share of America’s food dollars intensifies, consumers are faced with more choices than ever before.

No longer do consumers need to confine their food shopping to just one place. Instead, they can now selectively pick from a variety of different formats and outlets to meet their needs. Study results show that, on average, U.S. grocery buyers shop three channels per week, including visits to grocery, specialty, mass merchandise, club, convenience, dollar and online stores. This results in 15 visits a month with 52% shopping at two or more stores per trip.

Modern lifestyle, digital technology and heightened awareness of the health and environmental consequences of food have changed the way consumers think and behave. Today’s grocery shoppers are more engaged and informed, and they want a deeper connection with the food they eat. Fueled by new knowledge and aspirations, they are seeking better and more personalized ways to experience food.

The single biggest narrative underlying grocery shoppers’ evolving behavior is their belief that their lives are “more chaotic and hectic than ever before.” Increasingly, consumers say they want to use their time in more compelling ways than for basic shopping and preparing food. For some, ‘one-stop shopping’ at mass merchandisers or supercenters is the most efficient way to get the job done, even though they still end up supplementing their ‘one-stop’ trip with extra ‘fill-in’ shopping occasions along the way. For others, the best solution is to increase the number of shopping trips — even shopping daily — to meet last-minute unexpected needs.

Increasingly, shoppers’ customized strategies are taking them outside the boundaries of traditional food retail channels, and they are discovering that these alternative channels can offer them a totally new way to engage with foods. These experiences, which include more inspiring prepared food options, higher-quality products, more global and fresh offerings, and more compelling value and services, are influencing shoppers to expect higher-quality food shopping experiences from all types of retailers today.

Shoppers today are looking for personally relevant experiences that can inspire creativity and delight their senses.

Our report finds that specialty/natural, club and online channels are most successful in differentiating themselves by delivering highly relevant, unique products and services that fuel shoppers’ aspirations, leading to the highest advocacy scores. Convenience, drug and dollar channels are failing to engage with consumers in a meaningful way, resulting in the lowest advocacy scores.

In the days ahead retailers that are able to deliver an enhanced shopping experience while demonstrating compelling value will be more successful in attracting and retaining customers in the long run.

Food Shopping in America 2014 is an in-depth qualitative and quantitative study jointly developed, conducted and interpreted by consumer research firm The Hartman Group and food and nutrition marketing agency MSLGROUP. It seeks to explain how consumers plan, decide and shop in the era of unlimited choices and blurring channels.

More information about the study is available at: Food Shopping in America 2014

As CEO, Laurie Demeritt provides strategic and operational leadership for The Hartman Group’s research and consulting teams. The Hartman Group is recognized for its ability to blend qualitative, quantitative and trends research to help clients develop successful marketing strategies. Its analysts understand the subtle complexities of how consumers live, shop and eat, and how to apply that understanding in ways that lead to purchase. For more information about The Hartman Group, visit or contact Blaine Becker, senior director of marketing at: [email protected].


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