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40% of consumers require specific dietary information when shopping

Information challenge revealed as changing consumers demand more from retailers and branded manufacturers

LONDON, March 20, 2010 – Forty per cent of European shoppers have a specific requirement for dietary information when grocery shopping, according to a new report published by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe, conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. ‘Exploring The Third Dimension: Relevant and Timely Information to Empower Shopper Choice’, shows how retailers and branded manufacturers face a significant information challenge. A growing proportion of the population need and seek specific information when they shop. This can range from nutritional information or details about allergy risks through to the ethical standards of a product. In total, around half of the 6,300 shoppers surveyed across six European markets had a specific information demand from their products.

Albert Voogd, Executive Vice President Brand, Format, Marketing & Merchandising at Albert Heijn and Chairman of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe, said: “Most shoppers, most of the time need and want very little information. However, a substantial and growing group of shoppers has specific information needs that are often not well met. We call these shoppers the ‘information seekers’. Retailers, suppliers and the wider industry lack consistent ways of measuring, capturing and communicating nutrition, dietary, health and environmental information in meaningful ways to shoppers that seek this information. The challenge is to do this without over-complicating the shopping experience for mainstream shoppers.”

The research reveals that these ‘information seekers’ are typically more willing to embrace new technology, which could hold the key to meeting some of their additional needs. Around 45 per cent of green shoppers and 40 per cent of shoppers that are health conscious or have specific dietary needs, see a role for technology in helping to meet their information needs in-store during the shopping process. This could help them understand whether the product is compatible with their dietary intolerance or provide details of the ethical sourcing policies of the supplier. ‘Smart Carts’ (basically supermarket trolleys with a wireless device attached) and the mobile phone are the two devices most favoured by European shoppers.

Lawrence Hutter, global leader of Deloitte’s Consumer Business practice, said: “When shoppers have a specific information need, not finding it easily can be frustrating. New technologies will help shoppers access the information they need when and where they need it. Retailers are already showing an appetite to embrace these technologies but will need to make information as seamless and relevant to the shopper as possible. Grocery shoppers want to get in and out of store as quickly as possible, so making the shopping decision easier and faster will enhance the overall experience and strengthen customer loyalty.”

Symbols and images too may provide part of the solution. Although in-store signs, advertising and writing on the pack are the most common sources of information for shoppers, those with specific needs and interests are more likely to look at images and symbols on the pack. 40 per cent of vegetarians rely on signs and pictures on product packaging when making their choice. Symbols are clear, quick to recognise and provide information without overcrowding the pack with data irrelevant to mainstream shoppers.

A proactive approach by retailers to improve the way they cater to specific information needs could influence consumer store choice in future. At present, 53 per cent of all European consumers choose their store for grocery shopping simply because it is their ‘main store’. 49 per cent also say they do not recall any contributory factor (advertising, promotions, loyalty cards) influencing their choice of store. But, for example, shoppers with specific dietary needs are more likely to be influenced by direct mail. Around 30 per cent of this group use this source for information before shopping.

Voogd added: “A key conclusion from the study is that there is an opportunity to engage shoppers and consumers better on a 3rd dimension of need after price and product – that related to specific individual information needs. There is a sound business case for doing so too as the ‘information seekers’ spend more than the average shopper and are a significant and growing part of the population. However, if retailers are to have the option to engage more on these issues, then coordinated action is needed to improve the underlying data and establish more widely adopted labelling standards.”

Alternative scenarios are unattractive. If leading industry players act independently then this will add cost and contribute to customer confusion. It will also heighten the likelihood of additional regulatory complexity. A clear manifesto for standards around which the industry can align is required.

Hutter concluded: “The provision of such information has the potential to provide a valuable service for many consumers, and thereby an opportunity for early retail adopters to gain competitive advantage. Some of the early work being done in Europe on nutrition labelling and on environmental information, and consumer feedback about it, is encouraging, but needs to be better aligned and coordinated across the industry. Our report suggests that a working party drawing on retailers, manufacturers, industry associations and standards bodies should be established to advance the development and agreement of the labelling and data standards required.”

About the Report

Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe

The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe (CCRRCE) is dedicated to the development of a better understanding of the food retailing and allied merchandise distribution business in Europe. The focus of its energies is to identify and then to study selected critical issues and problems and, when appropriate, to present the findings in a suitable forum. Its goal is to take full advantage of information in order to further develop and enhance the effectiveness of the food retailing distribution business.

Contact

Anthony Freeling
Research Director, Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council Europe
Anthony@freeling.com

About Deloitte

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