Economy, Food Safety Impact Consumer Shopping Habits

 Now more than ever, consumers are looking for the best prices for the food they purchase. At the same time, though, they are concerned about food safety issues. According to the Food Marketing Institute’s "2009 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends" report, consumers are economizing when it comes to food purchases and they have stopped purchasing specific items because of safety concerns.

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Thanks to the current economy, consumers also are choosing to eat at home more often and, as a result, have indicated that they are eating balanced meals. About 92% of the respondents said they eat healthier when dining at home.

In the area of food safety, about 83% of shoppers say they are either “somewhat” or “very confident” in the safety of food in the supermarket. This level of confidence, though is fragile because 72% said they are only “somewhat” confident. Consumers indicated that they are more comfortable with food produced or grown in the U.S. than imported products. In fact, 90% of shoppers are either very or somewhat comfortable with U.S. foods compared with only 42% for foreign foods.

Unchanged from 2008, the majority of shoppers (89%) trust grocery stores to sell safe food but hold less trust in the government to make sure the food they purchase is safe. About 79% agree with the statement, “I trust USDA to ensure that the food I purchase is safe,” and 76% expressed the same view about FDA.

Sustainability and locally grown continue to receive consumer support. Nearly three-quarters of shoppers say they purchase locally grown products on a regular basis. Some of the reasons they like to buy local include, freshness (82%), support for the local economy (75%), taste (58%), and environmental impact of transporting foods across great distances (35%).

According to the report, the economy has not had a major impact on consumer interest in sustainability. More than half (59%) of shoppers say retailers’ efforts in the areas of recycling and sustainability are important. The vast majority of retailers (94%) sell reusable shopping bags and more consumers (40%) are bringing their own bags when they shop for groceries. There is growing evidence that sustainability can make sound business sense, reducing costs, and increasing consumer loyalty.

Source: Food Marketing Institute press release