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Comparing Americans to Grocery Shoppers Worldwide


Nearly every week my family finds itself standing in the aisles of the grocery stores. As we walk up and down the rows of food, we pull various products off the shelves. It's a ritual that requires constant decision making. I may know that I want spaghetti, but with a half dozen brands to choose from, what causes me to pick one brand over another? How does my decision-making differ from the average shopper worldwide?

Nielsen recently conducted a survey to determine what factors affect shoppers from every continent. While North Americans tended to be close to the average, the similarities and differences provide interesting insight into how we shop, and what we should (and should not) focus on.

Price is the Most Important for All Global Grocery Shoppers

Food is one of three basic needs that every human requires for survival. When prices shoot up, we all feel the effects on our budget, because unlike our gym membership, we can't simply quit the grocery store. Rising food prices had an impact on 88 percent of Nielsen survey respondents and led more than 50 percent of those surveyed to list pricing as a top concern.

If you haven't been keeping track of your grocery spending, you may want to make some time. Odds are if the rest of the world is feeling squeezed by grocery purchases, food spending is also creeping up in your own spending.

Connection Between Food and Health Matters

The cost of health care is increasing at an alarming rate and it's clear that Americans are sensitive to the connection between their food purchases and their health. Health concerns such as caloric, fat, and cholesterol intake were the second largest factor for those making a grocery purchase in North America. Worldwide, these concerns were either the second or third factor in food brand buying.

It's good to see that the average global shopper understands the indirect influence food can have on health and wealth. The average global shopper looks at the label after the price tag. Do you?

You Need to Get to the Store First

If you thought that all your food transportation issues vanished with the invention of the automobile, think again. One in three global respondents cited transportation as their top concern. It was the third largest concern for those in North America. Some continents, like Latin America and Africa, place transportation costs at second.

With gas prices steadily on the rise, grocery shoppers across the globe are listing transportation costs as a significant factor to grocery purchases. Getting to the store is a cost of shopping, no different than if sales taxes increased. Making a cost-efficient plan for getting to the grocery store will go a long way in reducing your budget.

Organic Isn't that Important to Global Shoppers

Sometimes it's interesting to find out what factors aren't important. Organic food products might be a growing niche, but it's not as important a consideration as you'd think. Neilson's survey tested 16 total categories, and organic foods ranked in the bottom half at 11 for the average global shopper. It only moved up slightly to 9 when just considering North America.

Obviously shoppers take health concerns seriously. However, organic farming methods cost extra money and the average shopper isn't willing to switch priorities.

Price, health concerns and transportation costs are the largest determinants to grocery shopping purchases. While some variables differ greatly from continent to continent, the global grocery shopper is fairly similar when it comes to the top three characteristics that influence their purchasing. Consistency is usually a good indication that the average shopper has a handle on the essential elements to buying at the grocery store.

JP is the author of the money blog My Family Finances, a site dedicated to helping families make wise financial decisions. He is also an MBA and works in corporate finance.

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