Grocery shopping is rarely just about filling the refrigerator and pantry: it’s also about supporting a broader set of principles and beliefs. Our latest research with FMI – The Food Industry Association explores how today’s shopper navigates value, weighing factors like relevance, convenience and experience amidst a changing grocery landscape. Today, values are what ultimately drive shoppers’ food and shopping decisions.

Value as the roadmap to eating well

Inflationary pressures continue to impact grocery budgets, but the aspiration to eat well remains strong. “Eating well” means different things to different people, but most consumers agree that they are unwilling to sacrifice what they eat. Specific food choices are closely tied to perceptions of personal health and wellbeing — making them difficult to give up. Instead of upending their current diet, consumers would much rather make tradeoffs in how or where they shop to balance their personal value equation. For instance, among the 91% of shoppers expressing concern over rising food prices:1

  • 50% look for more deals
  • 35% buy more store brands
  • 32% purchase items only when on sale
  • 28% leverage store loyalty programs more
  • 26% shop less frequently

Notably, Gen Z and Millennial shoppers who are concerned with rising food prices over-index on buying more online and changing which stores they shop at. These younger consumers also tend to take a more holistic approach to finding value than older consumers, prioritizing more subjective dimensions like customer service and a pleasant experience. This reinforces the broader cultural shift not only in the pursuit of value, but in prioritizing quality of life.

Quality of life over cost-savings

Consumers’ pursuit of eating well ultimately makes us think of the larger cultural focus on living well. Our Health & Wellness research series has long emphasized Americans’ focus on sustaining a high quality of life for longer. Just like value goes beyond the price/quantity ratio, quality of life goes beyond avoiding disease and illness. Instead, consumers are proactively supporting their mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing with a wide variety of tactics. This has ripple effects on every area of consumers’ lives, including how they shop for food. For example, 20% of U.S. adults consume foods or beverages to manage condition,2 and 87% use supplements or functional foods/beverages for various health benefits.3

This helps explain why consumers are less inclined to compromise on their food values at the register, despite inflationary concerns. Ultimately, our cultural values around wellness and quality of life supersede our desire to save money.

Where to find more insights

The Food Industry Association’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2024 report touches on many other ways shopping behaviors have evolved in recent years, exploring shoppers’ weekly spend, primary store choice, channel-specific considerations and more to offer valuable insights for retailers and brands aiming to meet the contemporary shopper’s needs. By understanding and responding to these shifts, businesses can better align with the consumers’ pursuit of value in their grocery shopping journey.

For more insights on the macro trends impacting consumers’ shopping and eating habits — and more importantly, how they can influence your strategy — connect with Shelley Balanko:

1. U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2024: Finding Value, FMI and Hartman Group

2. Health & Wellness 2023: The Great Wellness Reset, Hartman Group

3. Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements 2020, Hartman Group