Shoppers Shifting from Supermarkets to Mass Merchandisers

April 25, 2023
However, both formats continue to beat online shopping, according to FMI-Hartman Group survey.

Supermarkets and mass merchandisers are holding their own against the internet in post-pandemic shopping, but traditional groceries are losing ground to the big box stores.

Online shopping’s momentum is declining in both users and spending, although it’s still above pre-pandemic levels, according to just-released research conducted for FMI, The Food Industry Assn., by the Hartman Group.

In 2014, 52% of consumers considered the supermarket their primary channel. That fell to 49% in 2019 and 38% in this 2023 survey. Meanwhile, those identifying with mass merchandisers rose from 24% to 33%.

Inflation and rising food & beverage prices could be behind some of this shifting as shoppers look for deals across multiple channels – supermarkets, mass retailers, club stores and online – to mitigate the impact of higher food prices on their budgets, the report says.

“However, they are more likely to change how and where they shop than sacrifice key food values and priorities,” according to FMI’s “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report.

The survey revealed 68% of shoppers report spending more on groceries than one year ago, while 7% say they spend less. Households with children reported the greatest increase in grocery spending year over year. However, older consumers are more worried about rising food prices than any other group, with 80% of Boomers showing concern in February 2023 versus 69% in October 2022.

The survey was taken Feb. 1-14 of this year among a national sample of 2,105 U.S. primary shoppers over the age of 18.

“While eating out is the top expense shoppers cut to save money, foodservice sales and share of food spending have increased faster than retail sales since February 2022,” the report states. “This suggests foodservice continues to compete with retail on some key consumer needs and occasions despite rising prices.”

Some other key points:

  • American increasingly value eating together and are finding a greater pleasure in cooking.
  • Trust in retailers to provide healthy and nutritious food remains strong.
  • Work arrangements continue to evolve, with more at-home and hybrid work situations, [although] all workers source most of their food from home.

The report makes these suggestions to retailers (undoubtedly with a lot of help from processors):

  • Deliver consistent, reliable, omnichannel experiences across which shoppers can smoothly shop as they seek convenience, price savings, quality and discovery.
  • Address key pain points, such as out-of-stocks both instore and online.
  • Target hybrid and remote workers’ needs with fresh-prepared foods and solutions.

The report is available for purchase from FMI (fmi.org) at https://bit.ly/3mZlNfY.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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