WASHINGTON — In the recessionary economy, shoppers still care about the cleanliness of their supermarkets, but not as much as they care about price.
That was one of the insights into consumer behavior gleaned from the Food Marketing Institute's Grocery Shopper Trends 2009 report, said Jill Hollingsworth, FMI's group vice president, food safety, in a session here earlier this month at the Global Food Safety Conference, sponsored by The Consumer Goods Forum, Paris.
“In a tough economy, people do make tradeoffs,” she said. “They may have to give up a store that they prefer because it's clean and neat because in their minds they think economy has to come first.”
That sentiment was reflected in the survey FMI conducted last year of more than 1,000 U.S. shoppers for its Trends report. Only 2% of shoppers said a clean, neat store was the most important factor they considered when selecting their primary grocery store, compared with 10% in 2007. In addition 68% of shoppers said a clean, neat store was very important to them in rating a store, compared with 75% in 2006. By comparison, 75% of shoppers in last year's survey said low prices were very important while 69% said that in 2006.
But Hollingsworth said retailers should not let the economy deter them from emphasizing cleanliness in their stores. “Consumers shouldn't have to make a tradeoff,” she said. “Even though they say cleanliness is not the most important thing, having safe food is. And having a clean, sanitary store goes hand-in-hand with safe food.”