Priorities at the Store

Going to the supermarket is one of life’s more mundane activities. But that doesn’t stop shoppers from bringing a complex mishmash of considerations into play as they make their product choices. A new BrandSpark International/Better Homes and Gardens report sheds light on their thinking.

Different queries in the November/December polling elicited significantly differing responses on the importance of brand names at the grocery store. Ten percent agreed completely and another 31 percent simply agreed that “I consider myself to be loyal to brand name products.” But fewer assented (8 percent “completely agree,” 23 percent “agree”) to the idea that “If you want quality, you generally have to buy brand-name products.”

This latter finding dovetails with shoppers’ openness to private-label goods. Twenty-one percent completely agreed and 47 percent agreed that “private-label/store brands are usually extremely good value for the money”; 17 percent completely agreed and 43 percent agreed that private-label/store brands “are just as good as brand-name products.” Nor do respondents feel private labels are merely adept at copying brand-name goods: Fewer than half endorsed the statement, “I think the best new-product innovations usually come from brand names (as opposed to store brands/private labels)” — 14 percent agreeing completely, 33 percent simply agreeing.

One part of the survey found 75 percent of respondents agreeing (33 percent “completely”) that they “like trying new products.” But “innovative” ranks low on the hierarchy of factors consumers take into account when choosing new food, beverage, personal-care or household-care products: 17 percent said it’s “extremely important” to them. By contrast, 57 percent accorded such status to “provides better value for the money,” 42 percent to “offers better quality,” 40 percent to “is longer lasting, more durable” and 34 percent to “simplifies my life.” People seem most content with “new” when it’s familiar: 65 percent of respondents agreed strongly with the statement, “I look for new products that are from brands I trust.”

The study finds “natural” to be a more potent term than “organic.” While 22 percent assigned great importance to “is made from all-natural ingredients” when considering a new product, just half as many said the same about “is organic.” Cost clearly restrains people’s appetite for organics. Just 9 percent of respondents agreed “completely” (with another 19 percent simply agreeing) that they are “willing to pay more for products that are organic.” Many people are unconvinced there’s a major health benefit in organics. While 18 percent completely agreed and 28 percent agreed that “organic products are healthier,” 36 percent were “neutral,” 12 percent said they “do not agree” and 6 percent said they “do not at all agree.”

Concern for health and nutrition plainly boosts consumer interest in fruit, but all fruits are not equal. When respondents were asked to say which fruits “are particularly important to you from a nutritional standpoint,” bananas came out on top (cited by 77 percent), followed closely by apples (71 percent) and oranges (68 percent). Also picked by a majority of respondents were strawberries (59 percent), blueberries (58 percent) and cranberries (51 percent). Fewer cited melons (40 percent), pineapples (39 percent), pomegranates (35 percent) or kiwis (26 percent). Respondents were also asked to cite the nutrients they regard as particularly important. Calcium got the most votes (77 percent), followed by fiber (72 percent) and Vitamin C (63 percent). Vitamin D, anti-oxidants and protein were each mentioned by 60 percent, and whole grain by 58 percent.

One question asked respondents to cite the brand they “personally” regard as “the most trusted” they find in a grocery store. Kraft was the only name to score in double digits in this open-ended query (picked by 11 percent). Just a handful of others got as much as 3 percent of the tally: Campbell’s, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Kellogg’s.