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To the Editors of American Demographics:

I have been a subscriber to American Demographics for many years and love it. It's always a great place for me to get a start on a project. I am, however, currently at a loss. I'm looking for information regarding who's shopping in upscale grocery stores. Do you have any stats on this topic?

Kalinda Fisher

Advocate Market Research Bureau

Hamburg, N.Y

Dear Kalinda:

According to Patricia Breman, senior consultant with Menlo Park, Calif.-based SRI Consulting Business Intelligence's VALS Program, innovators make the best target for upscale groceries. Based on data from VALS/Mediamark Research Inc., members of this group enjoy cooking for fun and are about twice as likely to cook for fun once a week or more compared with the general population. Their ongoing quest for variety, love of good food and high discretionary income make them a prime market for upscale grocery stores.

Amazingly, other than SRI's analyses, which suggest targeting consumers based on their underlying motivations, few companies seem to offer any information on shoppers at upscale groceries.

As it turns out, there's a reason. Since many upscale, or niche grocers have either one or just a few retail outlets in their local markets, nationally syndicated consumer surveys seldom manage to capture data on those customers. For new insight into the reasons people shop at upscale groceries, American Demographics partnered on an exclusive survey with Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based market research company. The nationally representative online poll of 7,700 consumers focused on natural/organic and specialty/gourmet food stores, two types of outlets where there's significant overlap in customers.

The survey revealed that more than 1 in 4 adults (29 percent) has shopped at a natural/organic or specialty/gourmet food store in the past six months. Almost half (47 percent) hunt for victuals at these marts at least once per month. These stores seem to have a universal appeal, as the data on these shoppers shows no dramatic skews due to age or ethnicity. And although it might seem like such stores would be the sole preserve of the rich, that's not the case. While it is true that the rich are more likely to shop at these markets than the average Joe, over one-quarter of each income group say they have shopped in such food stores over the past six months.

Why shop at these stores, which are often pricier than average? What distinguishes these shops are items customers say they can't find elsewhere, followed by the high quality of the products. The food shopping at these emporiums is usually confined to select items consumers do not use regularly. Imagine someone who is open to experimentation with ingredients they've never tasted before. These discriminating customers are the kind of people who go on a mission to locate items such as Shanghai bok choy, tuna from Portugal, vanilla beans from Madagascar or crusty artisan breads. Baked goods, both frozen or packaged natural/health foods and organic fruits and vegetables are among the items these picky shoppers typically buy at these markets.

These food marts have a fairly devoted following. Fifty-five percent say that for them, shopping at natural/organic or specialty/gourmet stores is “a pleasure I would miss.� A hard-core 11 percent call it an “absolute necessity.� Says Pat Graham, SVP of client service and business development at Knowledge Networks: “It really speaks to the uniqueness of the experience.�

But although these shops may carry coveted ingredients and prepared foods, they fall short in other areas. A majority of these selective shoppers (59 percent) find the prices too high. And 4 in 10 complain that they can't do all their shopping at these markets. These findings suggest that stores could attract more frequent shoppers and possibly increase their share of wallet by offering products at lower price points and widening the selection. As dollar stores and super centers, such as Wal-Mart, continue to take a bite out of traditional grocery store sales, purveyors of food would do well to consider the consuming passions of today's finicky eaters and fussy cooks.


To the Editors of American Demographics:

Is it possible to obtain statistics on turkey consumption in the United States?

Christie Clough

Harwood Marketing Group

Addison, Texas

Dear Christie:

It certainly is. A good place to start looking is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.). Over the last two decades, turkey has evolved from something eaten mostly during the holidays to a source of protein that Americans gobble year-round. And it's growing in popularity. Between 1980 and 2000, annual consumption of turkey nearly doubled, to 13.8 pounds per person from 8.1 pounds, according to the U.S.D.A. It probably doesn't hurt that it's available in many different forms including ground turkey and wieners.

African Americans stand out as big turkey eaters, according to Mediamark Research. They are far more likely to munch on many forms of this poultry — including turkey hot dogs, turkey ham and whole fresh turkey — than any other racial or ethnic group. Their preference for turkey doesn't surprise Howard Buford, president and CEO of Prime Access, a New York City-based marketing agency. “Over the past 20 years, as African Americans have become much more concerned about their traditional diet, many are substituting turkey for pork,� says Buford. Many publications targeted to blacks featured recipes aimed at helping African Americans limit their salt and fat intake. The goal was to help fight hypertension and heart disease, which are prevalent in the black community. Even Buford's mother uses smoked turkey instead of pork these days. Clearly, they got the word.


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