US consumer confidence in food safety rises

by Bryan Salvage
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DALLAS – US consumer confidence in food safety is the highest it has been in seven years, according to a recent survey. Eighty-eight percent of shoppers are “completely” or “somewhat” confident in the safety of food at the supermarket, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s US Grocery Shopper Trends study

When presented with the statement that they trust their grocery stores to ensure the food they eat is safe, more than 90 percent of shoppers agree “strongly” or “somewhat”. When asked where they believe the food safety breaches occur, more than half of shoppers named food processing and manufacturing plants. However, when respondents were asked who is responsible for ensuring food safety, 58 percent) said they are responsible for the safety of their food, up 7 points from 2010; next on the list are manufacturers and processors at 35 percent followed by supermarkets and government agencies at 28 percent each.

Consumers remain most comfortable with food grown in the US versus imported products: 97 percent of shoppers are either “very” or “somewhat” comfortable with US grown food. The survey also finds men are more comfortable with imported foods compared to women: 76 percent of men are comfortable with food imported from Latin and South America versus 58 percent of women. Younger shoppers are significantly more comfortable with imported foods compared to shoppers aged 65 or older.

Fewer respondents said they stopped purchasing certain food items because of food-safety concerns. Only 12 percent of shoppers said they no longer purchase an item because of food-safety concerns.

Rising fuel costs, higher commodity prices and increasing international market demand for food are pushing food inflation higher and higher. As a result, the number of trips shoppers make to buy groceries plunged to 1.69 trips per week, its lowest level in the history of Trends. People shopping for groceries only once a week rose from 29 percent to 34 percent and those shopping once every other week increased to 20 percent. Shoppers spend an average of $97.30 per week on groceries in 2011, more than three-quarters of it at their primary store.

Most shoppers drive less than five miles to their primary store, but 60 percent do not shop for groceries at the store closest or most convenient to their home. Sixty-seven percent said the primary reason they bypass the closest store was to seek lower prices. Another important factor in selecting a primary store was great selection and variety.

Nine in 10 shoppers visit a full-service supermarket at least once a month. Nearly 60 percent visit a supercenter once a month, followed by warehouse club stores (27 percent).

Fewer shoppers (39 percent) claim to be “very” concerned about eating healthfully, down from 45 percent in 2010. Only 44 percent say they incorporate at least one healthy food into their diet. Ninety percent believe home-cooked meals are healthier and more affordable than eating out.

Consumers continue to show strong support for locally grown products with eight in 10 saying they purchase these products occasionally. Interest in organic is holding steady, a positive indicator for future growth.
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