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Understanding the influence of heritage on Black consumers

Numerator’s Amanda Schoenbauer details findings from her firm’s study on Black consumers, and how their heritage influences their shopping.

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MarketingMarketing Strategy

Numerator study: Understanding the influence of heritage on Black consumers

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The Black community in the United States is an important and multifaceted group for brands and retailers to understand. From what they value in a brand to how they shop and interact with media, Black consumers have distinct preferences and patterns of behavior.

But consumer insights are not one-size-fits-all. A full picture view of this — or any — group of shoppers requires additional consumer context and segmentations.

Half of Black consumers say their family heritage and identity influence their purchase behaviors, making heritage identity one of many important nuances to take into account when analyzing the behaviors of Black consumers. According to Numerator’s first-party consumer data, 78% of Black consumers in the US tie their ancestral roots to one or more of the following regions: the United States itself (59%), African countries (15%) and Caribbean countries (14%).

Black consumers are savvy shoppers

Smart shopping and deal-seeking are key considerations for many Black consumers. Nearly two in five (38%) describe themselves as “budget-driven” shoppers, compared to 30% of consumers overall. And these budget-driven tendencies aren’t limited to particular pockets — Black consumers across all income levels and heritage groups are more likely to prioritize their budgets when shopping.

Types of deals shopped vary slightly across different heritage groups. While Black consumers of African heritage prefer capitalizing on coupons, those with US or Caribbean heritage identities are more likely to seek out advertisements in search of sales.

Private label doesn’t pop

Despite deal-driven tendencies, few Black consumers are interested in bending when it comes to brands. Black consumers are 36% more likely to say they prefer popular brand names than the average shopper, and 5% less likely to consider private label or store brands.

These claimed preferences are evident in spending behaviors, with Black consumers spending less on private labels than US consumers as a whole, particularly in categories like Health & Beauty and Baby. According to Numerator TruView data, the average US consumer spends 12.2% of their Health & Beauty dollars on private label brands, while Black consumers spend only 9.8%.

Black shoppers value brands with values

One in three Black consumers say they have a high awareness of the corporate values behind the products they buy, compared to one in four US consumers overall. They’re also 35% more likely to take the values a brand stands for into consideration when deciding what to purchase.

When it comes to specific initiatives, Black consumers are twice as likely to believe brands should focus on causes related to diversity, equity and social justice. Brand values resonate differently across heritage groups, as well.

Though all three groups analyzed were more aware of corporate values than US consumers overall, key causes differed significantly between those with different heritage identities. While Black consumers of Caribbean heritage were most passionate about animal welfare, those of African heritage cared more about religious & political initiatives and those of US heritage were focused on community-centric causes.

Food is a focus among Black consumers

Black consumers -– particularly those of Caribbean and African heritages -– are much more likely to enjoy cooking and to get creative with new types of food than the average US consumer. Nearly half say they enjoy cooking from scratch (46%) and cooking different types of food (44%). For Black Caribbean and African consumers, these numbers top 50%.

Half of Black consumers say their family heritage has a strong impact on the foods they purchase, compared to a third of US consumers overall. Importance of heritage is significantly higher among Blacks with African heritage identities (68%) or Caribbean heritage identities (64%), which ties back to a distinct fondness for cooking within these groups.

Seafood and spices set Black consumers apart in the grocery aisle, and are the categories in which Black shoppers significantly out-spend other groups of shoppers. On the flip side, Black consumers spend notably less on dairy, and are 1.5x more likely to lean into lactose-free diets. They also are twice as likely to choose Pescatarian diets, especially those with Caribbean or African ancestry. These dietary preferences are driven by concerns for both personal health and animal welfare.

Media preferences are mixed

Black consumers consider emails, social media and online ads the most influential, and resonate more with these media than other US shoppers. Between heritage groups, certain preferences pop, with Black African consumers gravitating toward print advertisements and Black Caribbean consumers toward digital.

Specific avenues like Twitter, TikTok, Podcasts and YouTube also are key locations for connecting with Black shopppers.

Trust in advertised brands is much higher for Black consumers than US consumers as a whole, though this varies significantly based on heritage identity. Black consumers with African heritage are the most likely to say they “trust advertised brands,” while those associated with US heritage are the least.

Black consumers overall are also more likely to think advertising is entertaining and feel like ads keep them up-to-date.


Amanda Schoenbauer is the manager of Content Marketing & Insights at Numerator, a data and tech company bringing speed and scale to market research. This column was based on Numerator’s Understanding the Influence of Heritage on Black Consumers study.