New Trends Challenge Comfortable Concepts

A Letter from the President and CEO

Leslie G. Sarasin
"What this new sharing of responsibility means is that no single member of the household can completely account for the total household's spend-per-trip or even the number of trips-per-week."

The space race changed America's vocabulary in the 1960s, adding words such as "satellite," "lift-off," "orbit" and "astronaut" into the vernacular of pedestrian conversation. Fast-forward 50 years and today, digital technology has not only revolutionized our means of communication, but has affected our vocabulary. It has given us new words such as "googling" and "re-tweeting," and has provided new nuances to familiar words like "friending" and "liking." Changing times call for changing words, and the more times change, the greater the need for refining, redefining and reordering our vocabulary. The food retail industry is no exception.

A quick review of the key findings in FMI's 2014 "U.S. Shopper Trends" report uncovers many changes in our industry that are challenging some our most trusted terminology, inviting us to explore new ways of talking about industry matters. Consider three standard industry phrases that our research is calling for us to clarify, modify or amplify.

Primary store

Within the food retail industry, the designation of primary store has been a gold standard measurement indicating any given channel's share of being the "go to" place for grocery shopping. However, in the proliferation of venues at which food is sold and the growing consumer penchant for becoming category specific when shopping at particular stores, the number of shoppers unable to designate a "primary store" is growing. Back in 2011, when FMI first listed "no preference" as an option to the primary store question, only 2 percent chose that answer. In 2014, 9 percent could not designate a primary store.

Primary shopper

Without a doubt, shoppers are diversifying the number of places they shop, but there is also a shift regarding who within the household performs the shopping task. Once grocery shopping was almost exclusively a point in the female job description, but no longer. Now, more males grocery shop or at least share in the shopping. What this new sharing of responsibility means is that no single member of the household can completely account for the total household's spend-per-trip or even the number of trips-per-week. Additionally, the diversification of shopping channels and reallocation of shopper roles is further challenging longstanding categories such as stock-up trip and fill-in function.

Shopping to re-stock

As baby boomers age and millennials step into the limelight as a coveted demographic target, there is a slow passing of the torch that identifies the determining generation of cultural change. It will come as no surprise that the two generations plan and shop differently, because they eat differently. In very broad brushstrokes: boomers think in terms of three meals a day, make their lists throughout the week as they note declines in pantry levels and then shop to restock their pantries. Millennials, on the other hand, think in terms of five to six eating occasions a day and make their shopping lists on their iPhones just before the grocery trip because they are thinking more about the immediate eating occasions ahead of them. As the generational darlings for decades, the boomers and their style of shopping have influenced store layout and aisle design. Cultivating millennial loyalty will call for us to rethink store layout to better accomodate their shopping styles

Words, are malleable things, constantly being reshaped. For our food retail vocabulary to remain relevant, we must continue to adjust definitions and expand meanings. We must also make accommodations in the ways we measure some key concepts – even when they are our favorite ones.