Fresher, Faster, Cheaper: Consumer Reports Finds America's Grocery Shopping has Undergone a Revolution

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The rise of the virtual market: AmazonFresh tops satisfaction ratings of online grocers

In a society that wants “perfect” organic produce and meats delivered to the door, the act of filling up the pantry is undergoing a revolution. Consumers demand fresher produce, organic choices, low prices, and more convenience from their grocers, finds Consumer Reports in latest look at the future of grocery shopping. They’re willing to go well beyond their neighborhood supermarket to get what they want, and food retailers are introducing a variety of innovations to adapt.

In its story, “Faster, Fresher, Cheaper,” CR notes the pace of innovation in grocery stores and convenience trends. These trends include smaller-footprint stores that offer more-limited, “curated” food selections for time-pressed customers; in-store meal kits; home delivery; curbside pickup; and partnerships with local farms. CR also examines the supermarket of the future, which could include in-store sensors communicating with smartphone apps for easy purchase and no checkout lines; and boutique-style “concierges” offering help throughout the store.

“The new American shopper wants food that’s very fresh, minimally processed and that satisfies an adventurous palate. Shoppers also want it to be convenient and easy to get,” said Tobie Stanger, Consumer Reports senior editor. “With all the choices available in stores and online today, it’s a buyers’ market for consumers in many parts of the country.”

A recent Consumer Reports’ survey found 70 percent of respondents were either completely or very satisfied with the supermarkets where they do most of their grocery shopping. By contrast, only 48 percent told CR they’re very or completely satisfied with their markets’ healthy offerings, and only 29 percent said the same about the price of their markets’ organic options.

Earlier in the month, Consumer Reports revealed its latest ratings of 62 supermarkets chains, based on responses from over 50,000 CR subscribers. East coast chain Wegmans earned the top spot, a place it has held since 2006.

Other stores that did very well overall include Trader Joe’s, Publix, and the family-owned Market Basket chain, serving the Northeast. Walmart, with the largest market share for food and beverages of any U.S. retailer, scored well for competitive prices but otherwise was at the bottom of CR’s ratings.

The Rise of the Virtual Market
Six percent of the CR readers who were surveyed reported their experiences with online grocers. AmazonFresh topped CR’s satisfaction ratings of four online grocers. The survey is just one part of the not-for-profit organization’s latest look at the evolution of the supermarket industry and how consumers are changing the way they shop for food. Convenience and saving time are the online grocers’ major appeal.

Sixty-one percent of respondents who used AmazonFresh told Consumer Reports they were highly satisfied with the service. While AmazonFresh earned top marks, Instacart, Peapod, and FreshDirect are close behind.

While Amazon’s real impact on the industry has been through its food delivery, CR reports its innovations could eventually influence the operations of walk-in stores as well. Amazon’s brick-and-mortar grocery store prototype, where no checkout lanes exist (self-checkout or otherwise), allows people (Amazon employees during the test period) to buy what they need without having to engage with a human, changing the way consumers shop. In March, Amazon postponed the public rollout, citing technical problems.

For more supermarkets and grocery shopping services or to get CR’s complete review and ratings pick up a copy of the Consumer Reports July 2017 issue, on newsstands starting June 6, 2017 or visit CR.org. The story also includes best time- and money-saving food shopping tips, healthy shopping strategies for vegans and to learn how to shop like a food expert.

Consumer Reports Survey Methodology
The 2016 Annual Supermarkets Survey surveyed 57,805 Consumer Reports subscribers about their grocery shopping. Grocery store ratings are based on 50,218 responses, reflecting readers’ 93,447 shopping trips to supermarkets, supercenters, and warehouses between July 2015 and September 2016. Online grocery reader scores are based on 1,721 ratings of online grocers.

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

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© 2017 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports® magazine, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our prior written permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent unauthorized commercial use of its content and trademarks.

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Rocio Guzman
Consumers Union
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