Hot Takes from the Food & Beverage Consumer Value Study:
- Popcorn was the only consumer goods consumable category that did NOT see major gains in transactions over the last 2 years.
- 18% of grocery consumers are heavy online shoppers.
- The battle for the best online grocery retailer is over! Walmart is the clear frontrunner.
Webinar Hosts 🎙️
Dr. Kurt Jetta, Chief Analytics Officer, TABS Analytics
Kate Cieslinski, Blacksmith Applications
For the study’s methodology details, please see the end of the page.
(video time: 6:25)
After the initial COVID lockdown, the big question on the minds of CPGs everywhere…
💬 “What will happen post-COVID?”
Your answer is that transactions not only held growth… but continued to grow. Target and Walmart are saying the same thing – very strong, healthy same store sales growth vs. last year and pre-COVID.
Every consumables category, but one – popcorn, saw major gains in transactions over the last 2 years. 2021 grew off a high 2020 base. Across the board, we’ve seen strong growth compared to last year in our projected transactions.
Households with kids is always the heaviest buying demographic and drove the big gains in purchasing vs. year ago.
More than 60% of households with kids (30% of the sample) are heavy buyers of consumables, a 27% jump vs. 2020.
There was a 21% increase in heavy buying among households without kids, but their buying rates are way below households with kids.
(video time: 9:43)
The next topic: Deal shopping.
Despite all the industry clichés about getting shoppers off the needle of deal shopping, deal participation has only decreased marginally. For 9 years, I’ve been tracking this… and there’s been an explicit effort from manufacturers and retailers to reduce the number of deals, and depth of the deals. It doesn’t work.
The chart represents a cumulative percentage of people that participate in deal tactics.
- This year, 75% of people use 5 tactics or less.
- Almost half of grocery shoppers use at least 3 deal tactics regularly, and 25% use 6+ deal tactics regularly (compared to 31% in 2013).
- The average shoppers uses 3.9 deals… in 2013, it was 4.2.
Macro Deal Trends Over Time
(video time: 12:15)
There’s a slight decline in number of light deal buyers, a slight increase in number of heavy deal buyers, but most shoppers fall in that 2-6 deal use range. 84% of the people are using at least 2 different deal tactics regularly. Deals are important… people want them, need them, and react to them.
Deal use is almost universal among shoppers. There was an uptick in heavy deal use despite average prices being significantly higher at retail stores. Hard-core deal shoppers hover around 15% of the market.
Which Deal Tactics Are Used Most Often?
- EDLP is the most popular deal tactic.
- 2/3 of buyers use this deal tactic.
- EDLP has always been the most prominent deal tactic.
- Interest in large size product deals surged concurrent with the pandemic.
- This isn’t pantry loading! If they were pantry loading, we’d see overall sales come back down to pre-COVID levels. Shoppers are really consuming more when they’re buying these products.
- FSI took a plunge. This deal tactic represents half the level of usage it was in 2013, but usage has stabilized over the past 3 years (around 22%).
- The most disloyal shopper is the one that focuses on rewards cards.
- Just under half of shoppers choose outlets with the best deals.
The Relationship Between Deals and Heavy Buying Is Unmistakable
I obsess over deals so much because they generate sales. Even during the pandemic, when there was a major pullback on promotional activity and offers, consumers still said they wanted promotional offers.
- 59% of shoppers are more likely to be a heavy grocery shopper if they partake in deals. Compare that to only 34% of light deal buyers.
- Heavy deal buyers represent just 15% of buyers, but roughly 30% of the sales. They buy more frequently, and their transaction sizes are larger.
Where Are People Shopping?
(video time: 17:44)
Let’s focus on people who buy regularly.
Grocery is not dying! 75% of people are still buying at traditional grocery stores. More people are shopping at Walmart, Target and convenience stores than they had in the past.
- Regular online grocery purchasing has peaked around 35%.
- Pick up has increased slightly over the last 3 years, while delivery is flat.
- Aldi penetration is higher than Costco, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
- Aldi has more shoppers than the total of natural foods.
Penetration of regular online buyers has hit the wall since 2019. Even though delivery is flat, it’s grown in preference.
- 65% of US adults do not regularly buy groceries online.
- 25% of US adults purchase groceries online for delivery regularly (6+ times per year).
- 16% of US adults purchase groceries online for pick up regularly (6+ times per year).
- People are very loyal to their purchasing method. There is little overlap between formats: 19% are exclusive to delivery; 10% exclusive to pick up, and 6% use both regularly.
What Are Current Shares by Outlet?
(video time: 21:38)
- Aldi – The top player for share of mentions.
- Online – Still only 8% of transactions, which is very small. This is grocery; non-grocery our best estimates are 15-20%, not the same issues or shortcomings with food.
- Costco – The only retailer that has annual consistent declines in share.
- Trader Joe’s – Loyalty is high, but it’s not bringing in enough people.
The common denominator = organics. Organics is front and center; that hurts sales.
Ecommerce Grocery Core Metrics: Growing Buyers, Not Loyalty
(video time: 23:25)
There was a significant increase in online grocery, overall. 35% purchase their groceries online regularly (at least 6x)… 62% purchase their groceries online just once…
…That gives us 56% for a shared state of loyalty.
We want this number to be 75% in order for ecommerce grocery to be successful. I came up with 75% using panel data on what loyalty needs to be. There’s still a long way to go. If I’m not buying online at least 6 times, there’s a high chance I’ll drop out and there’s a burden to acquiring the new buyers needed to continue sales growth.
What Is Driving Sales for The Ecommerce Competitors?
(video time: 25:05)
Let’s breakdown ecommerce. This is the percent of people that buy at least once.
Amazon is down. Walmart, Target, and grocers are up.
We see a significant increase in purchase frequency across all major ecomm grocers. Amazon’s buyer base saw a second straight year of decline while all other major platforms grew.
Walmart is clearly #1 in online grocery.
Instacart – as a standalone brand – is a minor player; it accounts for only 7% of transactions.
Do Current “On Trend” Themes Live Up to The Hype?
(video time: 29:00)
Let’s go through some “on trend” themes.
Remember what I said about organic? The overemphasis on organics is not a strong strategy. Organics continue steady growth in consumables, but it’s far from mainstream. Only 19% strongly agree with trying to purchase organic drinks and snacks.
Diet product purchases snapped back to historical levels – 22% are usually purchasing diet products.
The vast majority of shoppers are not regular online shoppers. This year, just 18% said they were heavy online buyers. The pool of people that would be heavy online grocery shoppers is limited.
(video time: 30:30 )
- There was fear the industry would go back to pre-COVID levels, but we’re clocking big gains – there’s a structural shift in demand.
- 14 of the top 15 food & beverage categories have shown significant gains since 2019. It’s a broad base increase in demand.
- Households with kids continue to be the prime target for consumables, but even homes without kids posted major gains in transactions.
- Almost everyone uses deals!
- 84% of shoppers use 2+ deal tactics regularly.
- 16% use 7+ deal tactics regularly (they account for 30% of sales).
- 43% of shoppers look for larger sizes as a deal tactic.
- EDLP is the #1 deal tactic for 67% of shoppers; active shopping for deals is the second most popular deal tactic with 49% usage.
- Heavy deal users are +50% more likely to be heavy buyers of grocery than other buyers. This has always been the reason why offering deals is important and pulling back from them is foolish.
- Share gainers vs. pre-COVID: Walmart, Sam’s Club, convenience stores, and Aldi.
- Online gains were only marginal (7.9% vs. 7.6%)
- Share losers vs. pre-COVID: Costco, natural food stores, and traditional grocery.
- Delivery is the preferred method of buying groceries online. Pick up is gaining popularity.
- The average shopper – shops regularly at 5+ retail stores.
- The notion of “loyalty” to outlets is usually misplaced because half of shoppers go to other retailers looking for deals.
- Given the nature, you want to get more trips out of people. Your strategy should be to make a deal available to get consumers in your store.
- Very few grocers capture more than 50% share of requirements.
- Walmart is unambiguously the #1 outlet for online grocery in the US with 32% of transactions. Amazon is a distant #2 at 21% share.
- Amazon is losing buyers and share in a big way, and we can point to several reasons:
- Lacks broad pick up option; focuses on delivery.
- Overlap and competition with Costco: Both buyer profile with the same purchase profiles (large sizes; emphasis on durables; skew to the west and very upscale).
- Overemphasis on organics and less popular brands.
- All major domains generated big gains in purchase frequency among existing buyers. But they need to get a high majority (75%+) of their buyers to become regular buyers.
- Brick & mortar retailers, in total, only garner 15% of ecommerce grocery transactions, which translates into barely 1% of TOTAL grocery transactions. At these levels, ecommerce grocery can never be profitable.
(video time:39:58 )
Evidence suggests that strong grocery demand has staying power, and manufacturers and retailers should plan their production and buying accordingly.
Deals continue to have a vigorous presence into the calculus of most grocery shoppers, so the wise manufacturers and retailers will understand they should cater to these needs instead of fighting them.
Despite efforts by retailers to make organics mainstream, consumers are resisting. Retailers that try to shove organics down the throats of customers are being punished. Conversely, retailers that recognize organics for what they are – an important, profitable, incremental niche – stand to benefit.
Aldi appears to have taken the mantle from dollar stores as the growth outlet in small format. This trend should continue as they add more locations.
Brick & mortar grocery isn’t going anywhere. Some of the nation’s most beloved brands are grocers, and 100% of consumers shop at a brick-and-mortar grocery outlet. By contrast only 35% shop online regularly.
Walmart is on a rapid growth path – but can they actually make any money?
The share decline for Amazon could be beneficial if they take the time for introspection in this business (HA!). They can’t and won’t win the battle for mass appeal. Walmart has won in the US. Amazon is still absurdly dominant in all other sectors of consumer products (80%+ of online sales).
Despite no hope for any other retailers (except hyper niche ones…maybe), to make money in ecomm grocery for at least the next 10 years – and likely never – look for those that continue dumping ridiculous sums of money into trying to make this business model work (and attempt to defy the laws of economics in the process).
- Survey to ~1,000 adults, aged 18+, in August every year from 2013-2021. Responses weighted by age/gender to national census. Purchase frequency adjusted for population growth.
- Change in vendor in 2019 resulted in a “Step Function” of results. Some 2018-to-2019 results may be more extreme than the actual trend as a result.
- Areas of Questioning:
- Food & Beverage Category Purchase Frequency (15 categories accounting for 20% of CPG Retail $)
- Strong Agreement on Type of Deal Tactics Used
- Strong Agreement on Four “On Trend” Topics
- Outlets Where Consumables are Purchased Regularly (6+ times per year)
- External and Internal Validity Checks
- Share of Mentions is a proxy for Share of Transactions by Outlet
- HEAVY BUYER: 55+ POINTS, where points are scaled based on 1-5 scale per category on Frequency. Consistent definition since 2013.
- HEAVY DEAL USERS: 7-10 deals used regularly.