NEW YORK– New consumer research shows that many shoppers are now buying store brands in categories where they were once loyal to national brands. Moreover, this trend is likely to persist, according to PLMA’s latest nationwide poll of main household grocery shoppers conducted by GfK Custom Research North America.
The data, contained in PLMA’s report, Store Brands & The Economy: Are Shoppers Ready to Start Spending Again?, found that by a solid majority (63%), shoppers have changed their food buying habits as a result of economic conditions. Of these shoppers, fully two-thirds report that they are purchasing private label products in categories where they used to buy only national brand items.
Looking ahead, the data indicates this trend will continue. Eight of ten respondents say they will be buying more store brand products in categories where they previously only purchased the national brand product once the economy returns to normal. The growing popularity of private label extends to all categories, as 76% of shoppers say they will be buying store brands more often.
The study, the latest of PLMA’s series of consumer opinion polls, also documented a number of other ways food buying habits are changing: 91% of shoppers are cutting back on money spent on restaurants, fast food and takeout; nearly nine of ten shoppers are keeping shopping list and avoid buying on impulse; and 81% of respondents are cutting back on purchasing more expensive items such as fish, meat, prepared meals and convenience products.
With signs of recovery on the horizon, the study offers marketers and retailers hope that consumers are beginning to look beyond economic concerns and may be prepared to open their pocketbooks again.
About one out of every five shoppers surveyed reports that economic conditions have recently improved. The results reflect an uptick since February, when just 17% saw any improvement. The gain was especially evident among those earning at least $75,000, with 27% now saying the economy has improved. Meanwhile, 41% say conditions have stayed the same and 36% think things have gotten worse.
Apart from economic matters, however, shoppers are now indisputably assigning importance to nutrition and health-related issues when making choices about which food products to buy. Topping their list of concerns are nutritional values. Fully 82% of those surveyed say calories and fat intake are important (51% say these are “very important” to them). Sugar content is important to 78% of shoppers, while salt content is important to 73%.
Somewhat less important than the nutritional values are specific health issues such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. These conditions are important to 70%, 62% and 60% of shoppers, respectively. Food allergies are important to 37%. And though gluten content trails other health and nutritional concerns, 36% of shoppers say it’s important to them and 18% say it’s very important.
With regard to nutrition and health, nearly two-thirds (65%) of those surveyed are satisfied that product labeling for both store brands and national brands provides them with sufficient information to make decisions about which food products to buy.