Wake Up Call To Grocery Stores: Young People Shop Around | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Wake Up Call To Grocery Stores: Young People Shop Around

Supermarkets have spent decades catering to the needs and wants of baby boomers, and now the millennial generation is disappointed with what they're finding at traditional grocery stores, and are shopping elsewhere in greater numbers.

In fact, a new market research report called Trouble in Aisle 5 reports that millennials buy only 41 percent of their food at traditional grocery stores, compared to the boomers' 50 percent.

Instead of buying the same brands from the same store every week like their baby boomer parents or grandparents, millennials, or those born between 1982 and 2001, value convenience and freshness over brand or store loyalty, the report says.

The study, a survey of 2,000 adult grocery shoppers in the U.S., was conducted by Jefferies, a global investment bank, and AlixPartners, a business advisory firm.

Differences may stem from the millennial generation's inclination to multitask, even at the supermarket, the report suggests. These results mean that the new generation expects food to be very convenient, but they also don't want to compromise freshness or value.

"Millennials, generally speaking, are not a one issue generation. Natural and organic, flavor, and convenience mean a lot," says Scott Mushkin, Managing Director of Food and Drug Retailing at Jefferies.

And above all, convenience is key. Grocery delivery services, convenience stores, and online retailers are becoming increasingly important food sources for the latest generation of shoppers.

This need for instant access seems to be very characteristic of millennials. "They treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part," says a study of the generation published by Pew Research Center, and covered by NPR in 2010. "More than eight-in-ten say they sleep with a cell phone glowing by the bed, poised to disgorge texts, phone calls, emails, songs, news, games, and wake-up jingles," the Pew study reports.

"Millennials are channel surfers, jumping from one retail channel to another because that's what suits them," says David Garfield, Managing Director at AlixPartners. "Boomers are more consistent in where they shop and what they shop for. How many channels you communicate in, in your life, dictates how you act in the shopping world," he says.

As Boomers age, the financial uncertainty of retirement keeps many buying just the basics, which can be bad news for grocery stores. "On some levels, Boomers are not becoming great customers because of where they are in life," Mushkin says. "Millennials, on the other hand, are good customers. They seem to want to pay more for attributes that they value."

However some trending items, such as fresh and organic foods, seem to be important to both generations. "Millennials seem obsessed with what they put in their bodies and Boomers are obsessed with making their bodies last as long as possible," Mushkin tells The Salt.

And this next generation of shoppers is a growing force in the marketplace. Millennials will make up approximately 19 percent of Americans in 2020, while at the same time, the population of Baby Boomers in the United States sinks below 20 percent, the study notes.

Some big grocery store chains, like Safeway, are incorporating the needs of millennials into their future business plan by offering store-brand organic products, grocery delivery, and smartphone apps. Even staple brands like Campbell's are now trying to embrace organic trends. But a lot of these changes don't seem to be translating into dollars at the checkout.

"There seems to be this trend that they [millennials] will go to Amazon or Target or Wal-Mart for Cheerios or Diet Coke, but they'll go to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods for their fresh and organic needs," Mushkin says.

Mushkin says that the study provides good news for natural foods stores, as well as mass merchants who deal in groceries and more, like Target and Wal-Mart. "Mass merchants are becoming the cross section; everyone goes there for different reasons. But it's a really tough study for the traditional grocery business."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Patton Oswalt Tweets In Defense Of Comedy — And Trevor Noah

South African comedian Trevor Noah has been criticized for some tweets that critics say are sexist and anti-Semitic. Among his supporters is Oswalt, who took to Twitter to make his point.
NPR

Scary Times For California Farmers As Snowpack Hits Record Lows

Much of the state depends on that snow for its water. In the Central Valley, the nation's most productive farming region, that means another year of fallowed fields and emergency water measures.
NPR

Indiana Law: Sorting Fact From Fiction From Politics

The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics. And as is often the case in controversies, the facts have become muddled and conflated.
WAMU 88.5

Uber Tweaks Airport Pickups To Create 'Virtual Queue'

Faced with rules that prevent its drivers from hanging out on airport property waiting for rides, Uber is tweaking its system for ride-hailing pick-ups at Reagan National and Dulles International airports.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.