Who Is Today’s “Typical” Grocery Shopper?

on Thursday, 03 September 2015. Posted in Innovation

Grocery retailing has changed dramatically. Not that long ago, traditional grocery stores like Chicago's Jewel Food Stores were community institutions Mom visited once a week for food and most everything else she needed, from flowers to deli foods to light bulbs. Fathers may have picked up a few items along the way, but were rarely trusted with buying more unless armed with a detailed list.

Today it’s tough to even describe the ‘average’ grocery shopper. Men are as likely as women to be the primary shopper and most consumers shop often and in different places, for different reasons.

Do You Know This Shopper?

I have a friend who is a single dad living in Chicago. He manages his own business and is completing a rigorous exec MBA program, yet finds time to coach football, do a little catering once a month and shop for groceries 3-4 times a week. Why so often? Freshness matters to him and he loves bargains (but is not a coupon clipper). My friend claims to save a lot of money by shopping regularly in three places - our local Hyde Park produce coop, discount grocer Aldi Foods and a high end specialty store, Marianno’s. Occasionally he visits Costco, and would buy more there, but lacks the space to store industrial size packages of toilet paper. He is now considering whether he should give online or same-day home delivery a try.  Even a decade ago, this profile would have been surprising; today it is pretty “typical”.

Consider these recent trends and statistics, all from Mintel Research:

  • Club Stores are replacing traditional grocery stores. 63% of adults shop at a physical club store and they average 2 trips a month. Many of these shoppers use club stores as their primary shopping location, filling in with other stores as needed for convenience. Over a quarter belong to more than one club store, which reinforces how much they rely on this channel.
  • Mass Merchandisers are for more than staples. 48% of shoppers go to mass merchandisers like Walmart and Target for fresh produce, dairy, meat, and fish/seafood.
  • Specialty stores offer convenience as well as variety, and are for more than just shopping. 63% of Millennials say they prefer to make smaller, more frequent “impromptu” trips, rather than one large trip and over half say they prefer specialty stores over traditional grocery stores. Smaller format stores better suit their desire for unique tastes and more urban lifestyles (less likely to have a car, less storage space). 51% of Millennials say they eat at grocery stores. Some even sign up for a cooking lessons.
  • Online grocery shopping and on-demand delivery services are popular and growing. 25% of adults purchased groceries online in the past year, and that figure is trending up. A whopping 39% of Millennials primarily buy groceries online and many rely on on-demand services like Instacart and Peapod. Little wonder Target just announced it is testing on-demand delivery in its home market of Minneapolis in partnership with Instacart.

What It Means for Manufacturers

For manufacturers who want to reach the "typical" grocery shopper, these trends signal a sea change in how they go to market. Here are a few recommendations based on the insights above and our latest research:

  1. Don’t assume what works in one channel will work in another.We have clients who experience different results with the same product in club vs. grocery stores.
  2. Recognize that shoppers have multiple personas. Each channel represents a unique challenge but not a unique shopper. The same person is looking for something different each place they shop, so it can be as important to tailor your efforts by channel as by customer
  3. Get onboard with online. Amazon has accustomed us to the ease and selection of buying just about everything online. Now, the launch of Jet with over $100 million in marketing planned for the next year will help drive these figures higher.
  4. Focus on freshness. Consumers are increasingly demanding fresh food, and are willing to make the effort to shop more frequently – and pay more - to get them. 
  5. Offer both very small and/or very large sizes. With smaller households and frequent shopping, many are buying just what they need when they need it. Portable, portion-sized products are often preferred over large ones in specialty stores, and bulk sizes are the reason shoppers go to club stores.

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