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Consumer Shifts

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The economic pressures of 2008 have had profound effects on consumer grocery shopping behaviours in USA, particularly along the supermarket perimeter, according to the latest findings of a recently released report by the Perishables Group examining key sales trends and data for all fixedand random-weight items in retail fresh food Departments.
While volume was generally down, the overall increase in retail prices was chiefly responsible for driving supermarket dollar sales increases across the produce, deli, bakery, seafood and meat departments, the Perishables Group’s State of the Department analysis found. Trends within these departments, which represent approximately 30 percent of total supermarket store sales, indicate shifts in consumer behaviour will create new category complexity for suppliers and retailers in 2009.
“A new norm has been established during the past year,” says Sherry Frey, VP of account services for the Chicago-based supply chain consultancy. “By understanding the details of what happened in 2008, we have a better perspective of how to maneuver in 2009, [and thus] encourage our clients to use that knowledge to create successful business strategies and gain an edge in this increasingly competitive market.”
In particular, the report identified three noteworthy trends that transpired during 2008:
Penny-Pinching Consumers Still Find Time in Short Supply: Consumers still want convenient meals. With decreased restaurant visits in 2008, consumers looked to the grocery channel for convenient and affordable solutions. Continued sales growth in key deli prepared categories – pizza, chicken, sushi, entrees and sides – signifies that consumers are finding main meal solutions in their grocery stores. In addition to lunch and dinner solutions, consumers looked to the grocery store for breakfast and snacking options, resulting in sales growth of breakfast bakery and prepared fruits and vegetables. 
Multicultural/Ethnic Foods: Consumers continue to experiment with ethnic and multicultural influences. Key 2008 trends in fresh highlighting this pattern were the growth of Hispanic sweet goods in the in-store bakery (the only sweet bakery category that experienced growth) and the growth of exotic and tropicals in the produce department. Growth in the deli department occurred in Hispanic cheese and unique cuts of meat, which are more targeted to ethnic meal preparations. 
Affordable Luxuries: Consumers still want to indulge, but with a little restraint. This trend was evident in the dramatic growth of individual-sized desserts, miniature bakery items and cupcake sales, all of which grew by double digits. These personal- sized indulgences provide both portion control and smaller price tags. While consumers may have curbed their international travel in 2008, their interest in gourmet and specialty cheese continued to increase, even with retail price increases. It is apparent that consumers still want the gourmet experience, even on a budget. 
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