CHICAGO: Shopper sentiment in the US surged in the first quarter of 2015, with millennials in particular expressing significantly more optimism than in the previous two quarters, according to new data.

In the latest IRI MarketPulse survey, the information business's Shopper Sentiment Index hit a peak of 138, up from 120 in the final quarter of 2014 (where a score of more than 100 reflects consumers who are less price driven and more loyal to favourite brands).

"Consumers tend to start each new year with a modicum of optimism," said Susan Viamari, IRI's editor of Thought Leadership, but the "substantial spike" in the first three months of 2015, coupled with the fact it covered all age groups and index measures "is cause for optimism among CPG marketers".

IRI highlighted the changing outlook of millennials, whose index score of 131 in Q1 2015 represented a significant turnaround from 114 in Q4 2014 and 92 in Q3 2014.

Overall, IRI reported, one third of millennials felt the economy had improved in the last six months, while 28% expected more improvement in the next six months.

Despite their increased positivity, a quarter of millennials still faced financial difficulties when buying groceries (compared with 20% of the total population) and were thus especially keen on hunting down deals.

Some 26% said they buy more on deal today than a year ago, and among this group, 30% had bought more than half of their most recent shopping basket on promotion.

Between 40% and 50% were visiting couponing sites, retailer websites and manufacturer websites in search of deals.

"CPG marketers should find relief in the continued improvement in shopper attitudes, but sharp withdrawal of value-focused programs would be a mistake," Viamari said.

"Conservative mindsets still prevail and, in the near term, purchase behaviour and loyalty will be strongly influenced by products and programs that meet or exceed consumers' expectations for great quality and strong results at a reasonable price point."

Data sourced from BusinessWire; additional content by Warc staff