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Black grocery shoppers make more trips down the aisle.

They certainly like to shop for food. Not only do black consumers make more trips to the grocery store than the average shopper (2.2 trips per week vs. 1.8 trips), they spend more per week as well ($94 vs. $85), according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) entitled “The African American Grocery Shopper 2000.� The report provides insight into the habits, preferences, and attitudes of black grocery shoppers, highlighting differences between them and their nonblack counterparts.

Black consumers spent $55 billion on food in 1999, including more than $35 billion for food prepared at home. In fact, this market segment spent 15 percent of their annual expenditure on food — their third highest expense category, following housing and transportation, according to the 1999 Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditures Survey.

While there are similarities in what blacks and nonblacks want from their grocery store — cleanliness, quality meats and produce, among other things — there are also key differences, says Janice Jones, director of research for FMI. “African Americans place a much greater importance on stores being involved in the community and having black elements or cultural cues, things that make them feel more comfortable in a store,� she says. “For instance, having staff who are African American, an environment where other African Americans shop, and more ethnic foods and products of particular interest to them.�

Blacks buy more meat, poultry, and fish than nonblacks, as well as kitchen staples such as eggs, cereal, and oil. On average, black shoppers spend $425 each year on beef and pork compared with the $370 spent by nonblacks; and $151 for seafood compared with $100 spent by nonblacks. Black shoppers are also more discriminating when it comes to quality. Ninety percent say they're looking for high-quality meats, compared with 84 percent of nonblacks, and 67 percent seek out fresh seafood, compared with 53 percent of nonblacks. Perhaps they're more finicky because 62 percent of them say they cooked their most recent meal from scratch, while only 56 percent of nonblacks did. Only 36 percent of blacks bought convenience foods, a ready-to-eat meal, or take-out for their most recent main meal.

When black shoppers buy, they buy in bulk. Sixty-one percent of black shoppers say they stock up on items compared with 46 percent of nonblack shoppers. These folks are also serious impulse buyers: Only 36 percent of black shoppers say they often make a list before hitting the aisles. Even among those who do write everything down, 46 percent can't resist buying items not on their list. It's no wonder then, that in-store displays and free samples are so popular with this market. Fifty-seven percent say store displays influence their purchasing decisions and 41 percent are inclined to make the buy if they can sample goods beforehand.

When selecting their primary grocery store, 78 percent of blacks look for sales and offers for money-saving specials. But coupons are not as popular as frequent-shopper or reward programs. Just 47 percent of black shoppers use coupons, while 62 percent of those whose primary store offers a frequent-shopper program are enrolled. Still, just 40 percent of all black shoppers say their store offers such a program.

It takes more than a fancy display, free food, or the promise of a club discount to lure black shoppers — but not much more. These consumers are significantly more easily influenced by media ads than nonblacks. Forty-one percent of black shoppers say they are frequently influenced by TV ads for grocery stores, while only 33 percent of nonblacks are; and they are almost twice as likely (24 percent vs. 13 percent) to be swayed by radio ads. Most black shoppers are reading the Sunday circulars too: 58 percent say newspaper ads, more than any other type of advertisement, frequently influence what they buy.

When it comes to selecting product brands, blacks have been historically brand-loyal consumers, but that's not to say they're married to those brands for life. In fact, 65 percent of black shoppers say they'd be open to choosing new brands of groceries. Moreover, 72 percent of black grocery shoppers say they are willing to make the switch to get a better price, taste, or quality.

For more information, contact the Food Marketing Institute at (202) 452-8444 or

Who Drives the Cart?

Black grocery shoppers are younger, female, and more urban than non-black shoppers.

Male 26% 34%
Female 74% 66%
1 20% 21%
2 25% 35%
3 to 4 32% 27%
5 or more 16% 11%
15 to 24 12% 11%
25 to 39 30% 24%
40 to 49 20% 13%
50 to 64 18% 26%
65+ 14% 19%
Northeast 25% 11%
Midwest 19% 26%
South 47% 37%
West 9% 26%
Urban 66% 58%
Suburban 18% 26%
Rural 17% 17%
Source: Food Marketing Institute
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