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Do Consumers Really Crave “Convenience” When Food Shopping?

Overwhelmed and stressed out, today’s consumers tell us they are in search of (and in need of) convenience when grocery shopping. We know from our research that it is really the cultural context of food shopping that connects directly to the routines of everyday life. Knowing how shopping fits into the daily routine of consumers is key to understanding the true “why behind the buy,” and we’ve learned that it is about much more than convenience.

Woman shopping groceriesAmerica’s consumers are in a hurry. The clock is ticking and there is so much to cram into the finite hours of the day. We’re working more, commuting longer and spending more hours each week caring for children. Throw in the daily tasks of managing household schedules, meal planning, preparation and cleanup and it’s little wonder that we’re feeling more than a bit overwhelmed and, oh, so stressed out.

Feeling overwhelmed is not just something contemporary families deal with; it’s a phenomenon of our modern life. Our Health + Wellness 2017 report finds over half (55 percent) of America’s households are either treating or preventing anxiety or stress and that younger generations are grappling with feeling overwhelmed (63 percent of Millennials are either treating or preventing anxiety or stress), whether or not they have kids or are kids themselves. Over half of parents say it is somewhat, if not very, difficult to manage work and family.

Given how time-starved many consumers feel, one would expect a simplification of shopping routines. Yet the opposite is often true — most shoppers seem to have complex routines characterized by cross-shopping multiple grocery retailers. According to The Hartman Group’s Food Shopping in America 2017 report, primary shoppers make an average of 1.9 grocery trips a week (sometimes to multiple stores) with a monthly average of 12.2 store visits spanning an average of 4.4 channels.

In theory, most consumers could probably obtain all their needed groceries in one place and at one time. Most retailers offer similar options – especially in the center aisles and especially within the same channel. After all, many conventional grocery stores and mass merchandisers carry organic produce, premium and specialty brands as well as a huge selection of legacy and premium brands, and compete for low prices and convenient locations.

But the reality is, consumers just don’t do it. Despite complaints of being “so busy” all the time, they seem attached to the seemingly overcomplicated grocery shopping routines they have created.

A Reinterpretation of Convenience

Yes, consumers bemoan how busy they perceive themselves to be and champion the notion of “one-stop shopping.” Yet these are the same consumers who willingly spend 30 minutes strolling around their local specialty food retailer simply because they enjoy the experience and are looking to be inspired.

With many more options than in the past, consumers look for convenience options that also provide delight.

Convenience is still a key grocery-shopping need. But, much like value, consumers’ ideas of what convenience means have matured: 

  • The desire for quick and easy is increasingly matched by an unwillingness to sacrifice flexibility in choice, a positive experience and personal needs.
  • With more products and retailers catering to the demands of the new convenience – from prepared foods to meal kits to click & collect services and online delivery – consumers can factor these into their shopping habits.

Additional Resource

For more about the significant ways food shopping is changing, purchase the report: Food Shopping in America 2017


Food & Beverage Occasions Consumer Package Goods Health & Wellness Retail/Shopper Insights Trends


As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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