Tracking the habits of consumers across America’s grocery landscape for the past four decades, FMI–The Food Industry Association this month published its 2022 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, which offers a closer look at grocery shoppers’ changing habits and behaviors over the past few years and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prepared in partnership with The Hartman Group, the report finds that despite the challenges endured during the pandemic, consumers’ primary store remains relevant.
“Mass, club and online-centric channels have held their pandemic gains, but shoppers retain supermarkets in their mix,” Steve Markenson, director of research and insights for FMI, said in a release. “The breadth of channels (average 4.0) and banners (average 4.9) shopped remains stable.”
For the first time in five years, average primary store ratings have dipped below 8.7 on a scale of 10 but remain higher than in 2016, according to the findings.
On a high note for the grocery space, the report said shoppers still enjoy grocery shopping and that “supermarkets continue to be the shopper’s default selection for primary store,” the report said. The report noted that 75% of shoppers’ top driver is high-quality fruits and vegetables, followed by 72% who say great product selection and variety.
Supermarkets, mass and club maintain the greatest share of shoppers, the report found. Supermarkets remain the channel shopped most frequently and by the most shoppers. More than four out of five shoppers (81%) say they use a supermarket at least fairly often—up 2 points from last year. Meanwhile, almost half of shoppers (49%) say they visit supermarkets “almost every time” they shop.
Markenson credited shoppers’ resilience, perseverance and creativity in how they shop since the onset of the pandemic as the food retail industry continues to battle an obstacle course of issues: the pandemic/endemic, supply-chain challenges, inflation, domestic tragedies and the ramifications of a war in Ukraine.
The pandemic has “not diminished the appeal of grocery shopping, particularly for younger shoppers,” Markenson said, adding that satisfaction with their primary store remains high for shoppers.
“Food shopping may be a household ‘responsibility,’ but, like cooking, it shares aspects of leisure and enjoyment for many Americans engaged with food. While 19% say ‘it is a chore,’ 4 in 10 (39%) grocery shoppers say they either ‘like’ or ‘love’ the experience,” the report said.
When it comes to trust in food safety at the grocery store, 90% of shoppers trust their grocery store to ensure that the food they purchase is safe.
Markenson said trust in food safety at grocery stores remains strong and “interestingly, shoppers say they themselves are responsible for ensuring what they buy at the grocery store is nutritious.” Sixty-six percent of shoppers said they are responsible for ensuring food they buy is nutritious, while 40% said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and 36% said the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
With shoppers trusting their grocery stores to ensure food safety during the past year, shopper trust has eroded slightly across the rest of the food system. Consumer mistrust has grown to where “one-third of shoppers (35%) believe that fast-food restaurants are ‘working against’ their efforts to stay healthy,” the report said.
When it comes to online grocery spending, Markenson said shoppers continue to evolve their grocery shopping methods. “As outlined in our first part of our U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends series, shopping habits have evolved over the past few years, with many migrating to online grocery shopping options,” Markenson said in a statement.
During the months of March and April 2020, weekly online grocery as a portion of all grocery spending was 28%, the report said. Fast forward to February 2022 and that number has dipped to 19%. Millennials took the lead at 26% for online grocery as a portion of all grocery spending by age.
The channels that Americans shop online remains stable. “Among channel shoppers, just under half (46%) of those who are shopping mass for groceries are shopping online,” the report said.
As for finding fulfillment methods, online shoppers choose more than one method. “Online shoppers today choose from among multiple fulfillment methods, and many use more than one. Forty-five percent (45%) of online shoppers use at least two methods,” the report found.
FMI's U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2022 series releases six analyses throughout the year, each with a unique theme.