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By "Today" Food Editor
updated 2/22/2006 12:13:08 PM ET 2006-02-22T17:13:08

For the past three years, SupermarketGuru.com has conducted an annual consumer panel to find out how shoppers' behavior and needs have changed ... or not. Here’s what the trends for 2006 look like!

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Shopping with a list
In 2003, the SG panel showed that 46 percent of respondents said they shop with a list "all the time." But, in 2005, that percentage dropped to 42 percent. In addition, a wake-up alarm to consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands should be that fewer shoppers are actually listing a specific brand on their shopping list. In 2003, 14 percent said they "write down the brand of the product," in 2004 that increased slightly to 15 percent, but then declined in 2005 to 11 percent, reinforcing other surveys and reports that have seen the shift away from specific branding and towards a more holistic purchasing behavior that is store-centric vs. brand-centric.

SupermarketGuru.com consumer panelists were asked to select ALL the factors they keep in mind as they walk down the aisle and select purchases, and the most frequent answer was "price." However, the trend indicates that price is not as important as it used to be, dropping from 90 percent in 2003 to 87 percent in 2005. In addition, "products that are on sale" dropped from 85 percent in 2003 to 81 percent in 2005.

Which factors that influence shoppers' purchasing behavior are on the rise?

The most dramatic changes were seen when panelists were asked to select the ONE most important factor in their purchase behavior. "Nutrition" exhibited the most dramatic increase, going from 20 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2005. And, "price" showed the most dramatic decline, going from 31 percent in 2003 to 23 percent in 2005. Shoppers have clearly switched priorities.

Eating habits
So what does "nutrition" mean for shoppers in 2005? It doesn't seem to mean that shoppers are scanning the aisles for the words "low fat," "low carb," "fat free," or "high protein." "Nutrition" in 2006 will mean something a little different.

When panelists were asked "what they would like to change about their eating habits in 2006," 55 percent in 2005 said "cook more meals from scratch at home" increasing from 51 percent in 2003. Thirty-four percent in 2005 said they would like to "eat more organic foods" and 23 percent said they would like to "eat more ethnic cuisines" both increasing from the two previous years (51 percent increase and 19 percent increase, respectively).

When panelists were asked "what types of cuisines they eat on a regular basis" the findings above were supported by increases from 2003 to 2005 in the popularity of the following cuisines: Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Mideastern, Tex-Mex, and Thai. In addition, the results show an increase in the popularity of organics products, raw foods, and vegetarian foods. In comparison to 2003, the 2005 results show a declining interest in fat free, high protein, and low carb products.

Finally, panelists were asked "what is the ONE most important factor that determines which food product you would purchase as the main ingredient for dinner." The number one answer in 2005 was "nutritional value" (an increase from 28 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2005) and the number two answer was "type of cuisine." In 2003, the number one answer was "price," which has taken on a less important role in 2005.

To join the FREE SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel and tell the food world what YOU want, just go to http://supermarketguru.com/page.cfm/5810

Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at http://www.supermarketguru.com/.

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