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State Of The Grocery Marketplace: Shoppers Demand In-Depth Transparency

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The U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 analysis reveals shopper demand for dimensions of transparency along the supply chain challenged by an evolving marketplace. The research from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) signals that U.S. grocery shoppers want more than just information; they desire transparency that engages them, offering assurances of food safety, the pursuit of health and wellness, the appetite for discovery and a closer connection to food.

FMI President & CEO Leslie G. Sarasin presented this year’s findings on Monday in front of more than 400 of the industry’s future leaders in Chicago at FMI’s professional development conference.

“(Consumers) can handle the truth, and the information they do want to know, they want delivered in a clear, forthright, trustworthy and easy-to-find way that conveys some sense of vulnerability and openness,” she said. “This is a crucial area because I think honest clarity is the currency of trust in the digital age.”

While less traditional retailers enjoy more grocery traffic and shopper loyalty, FMI Trends data note that 8 percent of shoppers still claim to have “no primary store.” Limited assortment (25 percent), natural (17 percent), convenience (11 percent), ethnic (11 percent) and online only (11 percent) food stores are increasingly frequented by shoppers. This is particularly significant because this year the research suggests how comfortable Millennials have suddenly become with using online shopping for their grocery needs, although they still order only a limited breadth of food products online.

Sarasin insisted that the unpredictable state of the marketplace demands a strategy to help transform a retailer from “just a store” to an ally. According to the Trends findings, overall shopper ratings of how well stores are meeting their needs favor those retail channels that lead in transparency, including natural and organic, online-only, club, fresh-focused and mid-market traditional grocery stores. Conversely, retail channels trailing in transparency include discount, convenience, supercenter, limited, dollar, drug and value-focused. Consumers continue to view their primary store also as a primary ally in their wellness pursuits (45 percent).

The analysis cites dimensions of transparency that can help retailers better connect consumers with the broader context of their food, notably a retailer that demonstrates easy access to relevant information, clear quality standards, proactivity and accountability, fair treatment of employees and openness about business practices. In fact, the findings describe the way consumers rank fresh-focused traditional grocery stores and natural and organic stores, above value-focused traditional supermarkets across all dimensions of transparency.

Emphasizing that transparency lends relevance to the retailer-shopper relationship, Sarasin said, “In the competitive food retail landscape and in an age in which information moves faster and faster, the consumer demand for clear and honest answers offers a zip-line to confidence in the complex food system.”

About the author

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Kristen Cloud

A former newspaper editor and publisher, she once enjoyed leisurely perusing the grocery store aisles but, since having a baby in 2016, she is now an enthusiastic click-and-collect shopper.

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