Here's what shoppers are thinking these days


There's a new shopper study out with some interesting insights into the attitudes of Canadian consumers today and which brands they trust the most. A few of the results are what you might have expected. Others quite surprised me.

For instance, 30% of Canadians say they'll spend less on everyday groceries over the next year, according to the survey of 36,500 people by Brandspark International. By comparison, 10% of American shoppers plan to cut back.

In Canada, 54% think we're still in recession. Only 12% of Americans agree.

I have to admit I'm not surprised by this result: 84% of Canadians believe companies are exploiting environmentally friendly claims for marketing purposes. If marketing could solve the world's environmental problems, the whole planet would be in great shape now. Alas, advertising only goes so far.

And most consumers (87%) think that manufacturers have a long way to go reducing the amount of packaging in their products.

On the health front, that great wording "all natural" crept into the survey results. Two out of every three Canadians think it's important that a product be made from all-natural ingredients. A quarter believe it's important that food products be organic, but only 32% think health, beauty and household products should be organic.

There were also some survey results on private label that reinforce the data we are seeing at checkout. Sixty-eight per cent of shoppers prefer to buy name-brand products on sale than private label. That's despite the fact almost as many Canadians believe that those same name-brand manufacturers make the private-label products.

Meanwhile, 60% of Canadians believe that private-label food products are as good as name brand, but only 40% believe private-label health and beauty products are as good.

Brandspark also asked consumers to rate their most trusted brands. Tops in food was Kraft, followed by President's Choice, Campbell's, Kellogg's and Heinz. In household cleaning, Mr. Clean came in first. Next was Lysol, Hertel, Vim and Tide. The top five beauty brands were Olay, Dove, L'Oreal, Cover Girl and Aveeno.

Touchdown in Aisle 5

The Super Bowl is less than two weeks away, so there's still time to make sure your snack sales strategy is ready for the inevitable boom in potato chip, dip and nacho sales. I'm not much of an NFL fan (ah, Roughriders there's always next year's Grey Cup) but I do find the Super Bowl fascinating. Not the game mind you. It's the "event."

From the funny ads to the elaborate parties people throw, Super Bowl is like a second Christmas–except it's okay to guzzle beer. And when people celebrate with invited guests, you know they are going to go all-out to impress. As we mentioned in our Super Bowl report in our most recent issue, a lot of party hosts are going beyond chips and dip to fancier fare. I think this is an opportunity for grocers to help customers give their guests the best Super Bowl menu they've ever had.

Just keep in mind one thing. All that stuff about eating healthy goes out the window on game day. A survey done for U.S. grocery giant SuperValu found that 60% of men and 46% of women don't feel guilty indulging in unhealthy treats on Super Bowl Sunday. Indeed, many actually look forward to eating all the bad foods they try to avoid the rest of the year.

The danger of higher food prices

Last year, grocery executives bemoaned declining food prices. Certainly higher sales would be nice for retailers facing tight margins. But be careful what you wish for. In the U.S., the research firm NPD Group is finding that as grocery food prices start to rise, consumers are turning back to restaurants.

You may remember the story: when the recession bit, households took one look at their maxed-out credit cards and got back to cooking at home. But now, food price hikes are rising and they are impacting grocers before restaurants. And so consumers, who are still cost conscious, are returning to eat out. You can read that article here.

Fresher than Joe Fresh?

Last week I wrote about the grocery strategy at Target Corp., the U.S. discount chain that's going to take over Zellers locations in the next few years. I was trying to assess how much of a threat Target's food department will be to Canadian grocers. I should have mentioned one more thing: that Target will be an especially big thorn in one Canadian grocer's side, but it won't be in food.

The one thing that Target does really well is sell chic clothing at ultra-low prices. You can get stylish T-shirts at Target for 10 bucks. So which Canadian retailer combines style and savings in clothing? Why Loblaw's Joe Fresh brand, of course.

This could get interesting. Or messy.

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