Presenting the findings to its annual convention in London yesterday [October 11], IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch reported that consumers’ “biggest no-no” is reformulating products to keep to a price point. “Only 4% of shoppers approve of this,” said Denney-Finch. However, an overwhelming majority of respondents (79%) believed the quality of own-label products was improving, said Denney-Finch.
Through its ShopperTrack consumer insight service, IGD asked shoppers what they wanted the industry to concentrate on. The responses pointed to four priorities.
First, consumers wanted help in keeping to household budgets in these cash-strapped times.
Second, they wanted help in reducing the amount of food waste they generate.
They also wanted to have a “better experience” in-store and, lastly, greater provenance for products sold, said Denney-Finch.
“Shoppers need our help to save money and they have some very strong preferences. They understand real value, especially in times of austerity.”
Denney-Finch suggested that manufacturers and retailers should “get back to the drawing board” to see how they can provide these needs without compromising on the quality of products.
The major multiples, however, are aware of the financial constraints their customers are under at present. At the meeting their bosses reported on action they were undertaking to contain costs for their shoppers.
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke even hinted at further price reductions next year. That follows its recent £500M Big Price Drop initiative, which also involved deeper promotional discounting, to reduce the prices on 3,000 staple foods.
“We are facing one of the toughest trading conditions this country has seen for decades,” said Clarke. Further announcements are likely from Tesco over the coming year, he added.
Morrisons’ boss Dalton Philips said: “Customers really are at a tipping point and it is changing the way people shop.” He added that in the new environment, consumers sought relevance and affordability in their purchases, and that the retailer would be looking to its supply chain to find savings.
The IGD survey results also showed that shoppers wanted improved shelf-life for the foods they bought. They also asked for ‘best before’ and ‘use buy’ dates to be to be retained.
Edward Perry, co-founder of Sittingbourne-based frozen ready meal producer Cook, which also runs its own retail outlets, echoed the call to maintain the quality of foods sold. “As an industry there needs to be a lot more focus on product rather than price and promotion,” said Perry.
This view was also supported by Paul Lindley, chief executive of organic baby and kids’ food brand Ella’s Kitchen. He criticised the tendency for retailers to pressurise their suppliers into undertaking promotions. He said this was “unsustainable” in the long run without undermining the quality of products sold.