Grocery Shopping: Gap Between Supermarkets, Mass Outlets Continues To Shrink


Amid high food prices, grocery shoppers aren’t buying fewer items -- but they are shopping at more stores in search of value.

It’s a trend that comes as the gap between supermarkets and mass retail outlets as the primary shopping choice continues to narrow, according to data released by The Food Industry Association and The Hartman Group from a February survey of 2,105 “primary shoppers” ages 18+.

In 2016, supermarkets had a 64% share as the main grocery shopping choice, while  mass retail outlets (those that sell a wide variety of goods generally at a discount, like Target and Walmart) had 23%.

Now the figures are much more equal: 38% for supermarkets, and 33% for mass retailers..

During that same time period, club stores inched up to 9% as the primary choice, from 6%.



Since last October, food from grocery stores has overtaken gasoline as shoppers’ #1 concern when it comes to rising prices—with 75% of respondents either very or extremely concerned about food, versus 69% for gas.

“To address higher prices, shoppers are visiting more stores and seeking deals to stretch their dollars but are now less likely to cut back on the number of items purchased compared to six months or a year ago,” Food Industry president and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a report issued this week.

In February, shoppers visited an average of 5.2 different stores—up from 4.9 in February 2022.

Although the pandemic is having less of an impact on shopping habits than it did three years ago—when 74% of shoppers were extremely or very concerned about COVID-19 compared to 33% now—nearly half (48%) review online updates about store hours, procedures and social distancing before shopping.

Among millennials, 44% remain concerned about the pandemic, compared to just 26% of boomers.

Average weekly grocery spending checked in at $164 per week among all shoppers, a figure not reached since the height of COVID-19 spending in March of 2020. The same figure from one year ago was $148, which tracks with food inflation figures over the same period, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite being most concerned with rising food prices from grocery stores, only 21% are choosing fewer groceries—down three percentage points from October of 2022.

“In a related cost-cutting strategy, 43% report cooking at home more, up from 36% in October,” the report notes.

Amid the rise in food prices, younger age cohorts show the strongest appreciation for the experience of grocery shopping—with millennials leading the way in terms of liking or loving it, at 62%.

They’re followed by Gen Z at 48%, Gen X at 44% and boomers/mature shoppers at 29%.

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