Grocery shopping goes social

Grocery shopping goes social

Consumers increasingly view grocery shopping as an enjoyable experience and use mobile phones and social media as part of process.

MOM went to the local grocer with her shopping list and a fistful of coupons as part of a weekly chore, but today's savvy food shopper heads to the supermarket with a smartphone and store loyalty card as part of a fairly social outing.

Recent research into how consumers view their trip to the grocery indicates that how consumers buy food — not to mention how they feel about the buying experience itself — is changing considerably in a new post-digital landscape.

"How consumers interact with their food and favorite brand will continue to evolve as we head into 2014," said Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, a noted food industry consultant and analyst. "Shoppers are looking for convenient, healthful and satisfying food for themselves and their families, and brands will rise to meet these demands through product innovation and the use of mobile technology to make shopping faster and more convenient."

Lempert examined the top trends in the grocery industry for packaged food giant ConAgra Foods and found that those in the "Millennial" generation and health-conscious shoppers are shifting the consumer palate on the macro scale, portending some major trends in the coming year.

Among those trends is solidifying health and sustainability as critical consumer concerns for the foreseeable future.

Lempert highlighted 10 trends as part of his work for ConAgra, noting that 60% of all snack foods are now positioned as healthier options (relatively speaking), based on data from Innova Market Insights.

Supermarkets will likely capitalize on consumers' desire to "eat better" by replacing traditional higher-sugar, higher-fat snacks with more healthful options such as seeds, flavored nuts and other similar "grab-and-go" types of products.

Likewise, consumers are poised to renew their commitment to eating the most important meal of the day. According to a ConAgra consumer survey, 74% of consumers said they eat breakfast at home regularly. Furthermore, Mintel research suggests that consumers are interested in adding more protein to their morning meal via eggs, meats and Greek yogurt.

While consumers want to better their bodies when they stock up on food, they also want to improve the world around them. Lempert said consumers want to find greater purpose, with 62% saying they would like to support companies that donate to important social causes.

ConAgra, for example, has donated the equivalent of more than $60 million, or more than 315 million lb., of food to children's hunger programs over the past 20 years, including the equivalent of more than 13 million meals since 2010 through a partnership with Feeding America.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. recently announced that its employees had contributed the equivalent of 271,715 lb. of food to local food banks in honor of the U.N.'s World Food Day, and Cargill donated more than 11,000 turkeys to food banks, the Salvation Army and other charitable organizations this holiday season.

Those efforts, it appears, are part of the cost of doing business with a socially conscious consumer.


How we buy food

Consumers increasingly view the grocery buying process itself as a social experience, with Millennials increasingly bringing social media into the equation.

According to comparison-shopping site PriceGrabber, 57% of content on photo-sharing site Pinterest is food related, and 33% of users said they have purchased foods or cooking items after seeing them on Pinterest.

Retailers are taking advantage of the trend, with stores creating infographics for use to promote various foods or products, sharing recipes that promote specific purchases and encouraging impulse purchases.

Similarly, consumers are looking for packaging to evolve to include technology as a way of obtaining even more information about the foods they are buying, including information about ingredients and sourcing.

Using an app, as one example, Lempert said consumers will soon be able to learn more about an ingredient or health claim by simply scanning the product's label using their smartphone. The technology might be used to tell where a particular ingredient is from, who prepared the food, the company's history or other consumer reviews and ratings.

A recent study by marketing firm Sullivan Higdon & Sink (SHS) found that 56% of Americans own a mobile phone, and 44% of shoppers said they are using them as an aid during the grocery shopping process. Nearly a quarter of consumers use their phone to look up recipes, while nearly one-fifth access coupons; smaller percentages use a shopping-related app, scan quick response (QR) codes and learn more about a given brand or product (Figure).

Both SHS and Lempert agree that a new type of grocery shopper is emerging, highlighting the importance of these tech-related macro trends.

Lempert identified what he calls the "IndieWoman," a younger (27 years and older), single, career-oriented woman with no children at home; these shoppers number at least 31 million and are strong potential food influencers.

SHS similarly highlighted young, single moms as an increasingly important shopper and found that 68% of mobile phone shoppers are younger than 45, 67% are female and 68% earn more than $50,000 per year (Table).

These socially savvy younger shoppers are willing to give up some measure of privacy through store loyalty cards, but only in return for an expectation of better deals on the foods and products they buy. Fifty-five percent of younger shoppers are willing to forgo privacy through these store data-mining efforts, compared with only 46% of those older than 45, and mobile phone-using shoppers are 20% more likely to give up their data for better bargains.

For shoppers of all stripes, cooking at home is coming back en vogue, with Lempert referring to grocery stores as "the new culinary schools."

Grocery stores are increasingly offering in-store educational opportunities that allow socially oriented customers to learn about new foods and cooking techniques in a fun, collaborative environment.

SHS found that catering to these would-be gourmands is smart business for retailers, as those shoppers who said they like to cook were more likely to describe grocery shopping as an enjoyable experience: 49% of consumers said shopping is enjoyable, but that rose to 55% for self-described "good cooks."


Grocery shopping goes social

Demographics of shoppers who use mobile phones while grocery shopping


-Mobile phone shoppers-

-Non-mobile phone shoppers-






Under age 45





Over age 45















Lower income (under $50,000)





Higher income (over $50,000)





Source: Sullivan Higdon & Sink.


Volume:85 Issue:49

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.