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FMI study shows price-conscious consumers find good values in supermarkets but trust food safety less.

Price-conscious consumers are trying even harder this year to save money on groceries, and they are finding good values in their supermarkets. At the same time, their confidence in food safety has declined.

These findings were revealed here today at Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) annual convention in a presentation on FMI's annual consumer trends survey.

The economy is foremost on shoppers' minds. Nearly half cite an economic issue as the most critical challenge for the United States, and unemployment outweighs all others.

Confidence in food safety dropped from a record high in 1991, when 82 percent of consumers were mostly or completely confident, to 72 percent early this year. FMI Senior Vice President Tim Hammonds noted that while there were no widespread food safety incidents this year, confidence may have been affected by a major report on seafood safety while the FMI survey was in the field.

Consumers' main focus, though, is on saving money. Almost all (97 percent) shoppers consider good, low prices important when they evaluate a supermarket, and three-quarters rate this very important, up from 71 percent in 1991.

Supermarkets receive higher ratings this year for providing attractive prices. More than seven in 10 shoppers (73 percent) give their supermarkets excellent or good ratings on this, up from 65 percent in 1991.

Economizing measures are popular this year. Price-off coupons head the list (61 percent), followed by doing more with leftovers (60 percent). The most change was in buying fewer convenience foods: 51 percent, versus 46 percent in 1991.

More consumers now stock up on bargains and compare prices at different supermarkets. And, despite club stores' claims of lower everyday prices, only one in 10 consumers regularly economizes by shopping at these alternative formats.

Store brands benefited from the consumer focus on value. Nearly two-thirds of shoppers (65 percent) consider store brands important, up 10 points over last year. About one-fifth of shoppers say they are buying more store brands this year, and about half buy these products at least once a week.

When asked how they've just begun to save, consumers most often mention eating out less. "If there is any silver lining in the recession cloud for supermarkets, this is it," said Hammonds. "As people substitute carry-out and convenience foods for restaurant meals, we have an opportunity to keep them as customers even after the recession fades."

Turning to the findings on food safety, Hammonds said the sagging confidence level appears tied to concerns about food spoilage. Consumers mention spoilage most frequently when asked about threats to food safety. Coincident with this is increased concern over product freshness, shelf life and expiration dates.

Shoppers place the most faith in their own ability to ensure the safety of the foods they buy. Four in 10 rely most on themselves, and their reliance on government, along with consumer groups, continues to decline.

Other highlights from FMI's Trends '92.

* Households spend an average of $78 a week on groceries, down from $79 last year. The average cost per person dropped to $30 from $32 in 1991.

* Nutrition concern is at an all-time high: 64 percent of shoppers are very concerned, up from 56 percent last year. Among specific concerns, fat content tops the list, up 8 points from 1991 to 50 percent this year.

* Consumers' concern about fat showed up in their cooking. In the past three to five years, 44 percent fried foods less, 27 percent used less added fat; and 22 percent broiled foods.

* Good variety and selection ties with good, low prices when consumers say what is important in selecting a store. Nine in 10 say their stores do an excellent or good job at providing variety and selection.

Trends 92: Consumer Attitudes & the Supermarket 1992 may be purchased from the FMI Publications Sales Department.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Food Marketing Institute
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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