The National Grocers Association (NGA) has recently released its 2011 Consumer Survey Report. There are some interesting bits of data within the report that speak to the nation’s cultural attitudes towards grocery shopping, and some interesting pointers in how to succeed with shopper marketing on the grocery channel.
Researchers found numerous factors that impact our decisions on store choices. Locally grown produce is an important factor for 86% of the respondents in this study. Yet only 61% of the same sample rate the store they currently use as being excellent or good at providing locally grown produce. Interestingly, 79% also claim to look for locally grown products when buying a new product for the first time. Yet only 50% eat locally grown products frequently (which is defined as more than three times a week).
It’s a similar picture with organic produce. 68% claim that the availability of organic produce is very or somewhat important to their choice of supermarket. 70% believe that their current supermarket choice is excellent or good at providing organic produce. A further 70% believe that organic is important to them when buying a new product for the first time. Yet only 42% eat organic products frequently (again, more than three times a week).
So, it looks like shoppers find the availability of locally grown and organic produce appealing, but we shouldn’t expect them to buy it and eat it frequently.
Why might this be?
Other data in this survey shed some light on this discrepancy. Low price was an important factor to 95% of respondents in this study, as was an item on sale (92%), the implication being that locally grown and organic products are neither low in price nor often on sale.
Yet in the same survey, 59% of respondents recognize that their diet could be a lot or somewhat healthier. Our wallets are overruling our heads and, in the long-term, the health of our hearts.
As shoppers we are far more inclined to avoid the potential for loss than to pursue the potential for gain, what Behavioral Economics calls loss aversion. Shoppers are also slow to change their habits. Changing their purchases to include more locally grown or organic products, which may or may not be better, and therefore incurs a psychological risk and is behavior that also incurs the perception of a financial penalty. Therefore such a change will take a long time. Despite rationally knowing that it will be better for their diets and help them achieve better health (along with a series of other environmental benefits), the psychological barriers are still high, so change is slow to occur.
Retailers and producers therefore need to help shoppers overcome these barriers. What about guarantees of taste, or being better than non-locally produced products? What about social proof, signaling that more and more people are buying locally grown and organic in that store? All would be interesting shopper marketing approaches to test as ways to overcome these barriers. Either way, it is interesting to see that availability of locally grown and organic produce is a firm and important factor in supermarket choice, even if the next levels of behavior still have a long way to go before being fully adopted.