Survey Says: 80 Percent of Shoppers Prefer Independent Stores to Online

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For Presence Marketing Newsletter, March 2018
By Steven Hoffman

Independent grocers remain well positioned to compete with larger chains and online grocery alternatives in today’s price sensitive retail environment, according to the 2018 National Grocery Shoppers Survey conducted by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

According to the survey published in February 2018, 64 percent of independent shoppers are very or extremely satisfied with their local supermarket, and 80 percent of shoppers prefer their local store to an online alternative. Additionally, independent grocers are strongly associated with friendly employees, quality meats and produce, and easy-to-navigate layout, NGA reported.

“There’s no doubt that the supermarket industry is rapidly changing, either because of the growth of e-commerce or the explosion of new formats, along with shifting consumer trends. However, independent grocers are nimble enough to quickly overcome obstacles and with strong ties to their communities, they know what consumers want and need,” said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA in a release.

The National Survey of Grocery Shoppers was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of NGA among 3,008 adults, 18 and over between November 13 and December 8, 2017, using a sample from The Harris Poll Panel who self identified themselves as independent shoppers. Additional analytics were derived from Nielsen’s panel-based Independent Grocer shopper database of 44,000 consumers. Loyal independent shoppers are those that spend 50% or more of their reported shopping at an independent grocery store.

“In today’s omni-channel retail environment, independent grocers maintain a unique and strong connection with their shoppers,” said Jeanne Danubio, EVP of Retail Lead Markets at Nielsen. “Complementing the findings of this year’s survey, Nielsen’s new independent buyer group panel data shows that a loyal independent grocery shopper spends more than 40% more in grocery than the average shopper. It will be critical for independent grocers to maintain the quality and personal connections that keep these valuable consumers coming back to the independent store,” Danubio added.

“While there has always been an element of whistling-past-the-graveyard reverence to industry pronouncements about independents, it will always be true that a strong, well-run, well-merchandised and technically savvy local operator can effectively compete with big chains and online giants. Supermarket chains and online merchants may seek to replicate personalization using their loyalty program data and algorithms, but independent grocers offer the real thing,” note the editors of Food Dive.

Among the survey’s key findings:

E-Commerce:  Of those who shop for groceries online, 68 percent do it in addition to shopping in stores, with 75 percent of their purchases made at the store. NGA said convenience is the main impetus for shopping for groceries online, while the biggest obstacles to online grocery shopping are the consumers' need to see the actual physical items and their concerns about freshness. In addition, only 11 percent of those surveyed shop online, and they prefer home delivery to store pickup by a wide margin, 76 percent to 39 percent. Of products bought online, packaged food products are the most commonly purchased. General merchandise and health and beauty care items rank second, followed by cleaning products. Also, 27 percent of shoppers surveyed said they would increase their online grocery shopping over the next five years.

Health and Wellness:  According to the NGA survey, 63 percent of independent grocery shoppers expect grocery stores to support their healthier lifestyles, and provide more help with cooking instructions, reading nutritional labels, and guidance on foods with good nutritional value. When considering where to shop, these shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and locally grown produce. Shoppers were almost split on where healthy foods should be displayed, with 58 percent saying that healthy food alternatives should be shelved alongside other food items, compared to 42 percent who think healthy food should be in its own section, separate from main aisles.

Areas Shoppers Value Most:  When considering where to shop for groceries, independent shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and offering locally grown produce and other packaged goods. Almost 7 in 10 shoppers (67%) have no plans to switch from their independent store.

Areas of Needed Improvement:  The survey noted that independent supermarket operators need to upgrade their technology offerings, including improving their website usability, with consistent pricing online and offline, the same products online and in-store, and providing an easy-to-use smart phone app.

Food Waste Goes Bananas

Worldwide, a staggering 50% of all food that is produced goes uneaten and wasted, and the world’s most popular fruit, the banana, is also the world’s most wasted fruit, says a new study conducted by Karlstad University in Sweden. In all, seven fruits and vegetables – bananas, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, pears and grapes – represented nearly half of the total fresh produce waste measured.

While consumers are behind most of the waste, as it occurs after food is brought home, grocery stores, too, throw away huge amounts, especially bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. As such, the researchers directly measured the amount of waste in the produce sections of three major supermarkets in Sweden. They also extrapolated the climate impact and financial cost of the wastage.

Consumers throughout the world prefer to eat bananas fresh and raw, and customers generally prefer a firmer banana—either completely yellow or with a tinge of green, reports Modern Farmer, meaning that perfectly edible bananas that don’t meet these standards are continuously thrown away by supermarkets that can’t sell them. According to the Swedish study, the banana provides the most food waste in terms of weight and environmental impact.

The researchers also looked specifically at the economic value of supermarket waste—not just what’s thrown out in terms of sheer weight. In terms of money lost by the business due to food waste, the leading culprits are cut greens, which go bad quickly – specifically, lettuces and fresh herbs. Lettuce alone amounted to 17 percent of the costs of wasted fruit and vegetables, the researchers found.

The researchers suggest that a focus on these seven products can help reduce economic losses in supermarkets. 

“Fruit, vegetables and bread are the biggest problem items regarding food waste in stores. These products are not so easy to redistribute because they have to get out to people while they are fresh,” Anne Marie Schrøder, chief spokeswoman for Matvett, a Norwegian nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing food waste, told ScienceNordic’s Norwegian partner forskning.no in response to the report. “Fortunately, efforts to reduce waste are in the interests of the environment and the stores. I am absolutely convinced it’s feasible to turn things around,” she added.

“There are three reasons for why we need to reduce food waste. It is not profitable for the grocery sector or for society. Nor is it environmentally or climate friendly. And we could feed the starving people of the world with the food wasted globally. All food has a value and a sensible utilization of the resources is essential,” Schrøder said.

Resources for Jobs and Careers in Natural, Organic and Sustainable Products

At Compass Natural, a lot of folks ask us about resources for finding senior-level jobs and career opportunities in the natural, organic, and eco-friendly products market. As such, we compiled a blog of resources for finding jobs and careers in this rapidly growing market, in no particular order. However, we welcome your comments and suggestions to add to the list. Happy green job hunting!

·      Green Dream Jobs. You can search by level and region. Awesome resource presented by our friends at SustainableBusiness.com. www.sustainablebusiness.com/jobs/

·      Luke's Circle is a great resource for sales, marketing, management and executive level jobs in the Denver/Boulder region, created by our friend and colleague Luke Vernon. www.lukescircle.com

·      GreenBiz has a great sustainable jobs board. http://jobs.greenbiz.com

·      TreeHugger has green job listings. http://jobs.treehugger.com

·      Sustainable Industries posts green jobs across the country. http://sustainableindustries.com/jobs

·      Just Means job listings have a social mission and NGO focus. http://www.justmeans.com/alljobs

·      Natural and Organic Industry Careers and Resources. A good compendium of industry resources and job opportunities. http://www.naturalindustryjobs.com

·      Food Force posts career opportunities with natural, organic, specialty and conventional food companies and brand leaders. http://www.foodforce.com

·      The Green Jobs Network "empowers people seeking careers in sustainability and environmental responsibility to find jobs, career resources, and build their professional network." http://www.greenjobs.net

·      Naturally Boulder is another resource for job listings in the Boulder/Denver region. http://www.naturallyboulderproducts.com/news/#jobs

·      World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wanting a Peace Corps-like volunteer experience, but on an organic farm somewhere around the world where you can learn about organic agriculture? Feeling young and adventurous? Check out WWOOF. http://www.wwoof.org

·      Green Career Guide job thread. http://greencareerguide.jobthread.com

·      California Certified Organic Farmers, an excellent organization for organic producers, posts job listings. http://www.ccof.org/classifieds.php#emp

·      ReWork:  Founded in 2011 by alumni of the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, ReWork helps people find careers in values-based, socially responsible and sustainable businesses. http://rework.jobs/talent

·      Project NOSH: Project NOSH covers the world of entrepreneurial food companies and services that are expanding rapidly due to interest in Natural, Organic, Sustainable, and Healthy (NOSH) products and businesses. Project NOSH helps food and beverage companies to find the right employees, and develop business success. http://www.projectnosh.com/jobs

·      VeganJobs.com is a free global vegan job and resume hub operated by vegans for vegans and plant-based/vegan-oriented businesses and organizations. www.veganjobs.com

·      Food+Tech Jobs:  Search for tech, business, design, sales, marketing, operations and PR jobs at leading food companies. https://jobs.foodtechconnect.com/

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnaturalmarketing.com.