US consumers continue to cut back

02 April 2010

NEW YORK: Consumers in the US are continuing to rein in their expenditure on grocery goods, with the majority engaging in activities such as trading down or taking advantage of in-store promotions.

The Private Label Manufacturers Association, the industry body, partnered with GfK, the research firm, to survey 800 "main household grocery shoppers" in America.

Overall, 42% of participants did not believe that the domestic economic situation had changed in recent months, while 40% argued that conditions had actually depreciated in this period.

In responding to this adverse climate, 51% of the sample intended to make reductions to their total outlay in the short-term at least.

A further 62% of respondents planned to buy more own-label products, with 75% arguing that the current financial climate was either an "important" or "very important" factor behind this decision.

Some 57% of the panel "frequently" purchase private label offerings at present, up by 2% from a similar study in June 2009, and a habit that was consistent across all age and income ranges.

A third of those polled "occasionally" traded down, compared with 8% who "rarely" did so, and 2% that had "never" opted for this approach.

In line with this trend, 51% of shoppers agreed their awareness of store brands had increased in the last year, including 72% of 18–24 year olds and 55% of people aged 65 years old and over.

More specifically, 43% of contributors had recently "forsaken a familiar national brand for a private label counterpart," marking an uptick from the comparative rating of 35% recorded in June 2009.

Price was regarded as being the most important characteristic of products in this area by 80% of this group, with consistency on 76% and nutritional labelling on 68%.

When asked to grade the quality of the own-label goods they had bought, 94% thought they measured up "favourably" against more premium alternatives, including 49% who scored them "very favourably".

Looking more broadly, consumers are employing a wide variety of tactics in an effort to save money, with 69% taking advantage of discounts, opting for larger pack sizes or buying in bulk.

More than two-thirds are looking to reclaim coupons and leverage promotions on branded goods, while 36% will change the stores where they do their main grocery shopping.

Data sourced from Private Label Manufacturers Association; additional content by Warc staff