How and Why Americans Grocery Shop

Posted on by Patty Odell

When it comes to consumers grocery shopping habits, keeping up with their decision making processes is like trying to find a package of fat-free cheese among the piles of delightful looking cheese wedges: Not an easy task. There are a number of factors that always play into shopping decisions, among them falling gas prices, according to a new report from Acosta.

Lower gas prices are enabling consumers to spend elsewhere with most shoppers report they will use gas savings for food/groceries, paying bills and going out more.

  • Specifically, 72% of shoppers ages 18-to-34 indicate they will be spending their fuel savings on groceries.

“Grocery shopping has become a complex, consumer-centric matrix of options as Americans have more choices today than ever before,” says Colin Stewart, senior vice president, Acosta. “As consumers report saving an average of $67 per month due to lower gas prices, and directing some of those savings to food and groceries, there are even more decisions to make on what, where and how to buy.”

Store Surfing

shopper habitsThe average shopper reported visiting about seven different store locations to buy groceries in the past six months, The Why? Behind the Buy report found.

Shoppers still most often keep to their regular supermarkets, however the generational tide is turning with Gen X and Millennial shoppers. Here are some of the findings:

  • 95% of U.S. shoppers report buying household groceries at regular supermarkets in the past six months; followed by shopping at mass merchants (79%); warehouse/club stores (42%); dollar and drug stores (39%); convenience stores (25%); natural/organic grocers (21%).
  • Millennial and Gen X shoppers show slightly greater interest in drug stores, convenience stores and natural/organic grocers than total U.S. shoppers.
  • 27% of shoppers reported purchasing a grocery item online at least once a month, over the past year, up from 23% reported in the last study. Four in 10 of those currently shopping online said that they expect to increase their order frequency in the next year.

Decisions vary

Like finding that fat-free cheese, there’s plenty that goes into shoppers decisions to make a purchase:

  • While about seven in 10 shoppers make the decision to shop a particular category at home, 55% of shoppers typically decide what brand to buy while in the store.
  • Shoppers feel that name brands are more important in some categories than in others.
  • When it comes to product loyalty, 65% of shoppers will switch products if their specific item was unavailable; 20% will wait until the next trip; 11% will go to another store; and 4% are not sure what they would do. (Data based on average of 50 categories tracked)
  • Although marketing tactics definitely impact purchase decisions, the success of approaches varies by category.
  • Not surprisingly, female shoppers and shoppers with children in their household are spending the most time in the grocery store.
  • New product purchase drivers vary by category, from finding a new product interesting, to being interested in a new flavor/type, or finding the item on sale.


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