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Recession prepared many for rising food prices ahead

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — U.S. consumers that opted to become more thrifty during the recession will face rising food costs with ease as they’ve mastered ways to stretch their money, according to new research by NPD.

The research group’s Economy Tracker found that nearly 3-out-of-4 consumers (74%) strongly agreed that they expect coupons and special deals will be much more important in deciding what to buy, while 67% said that they would shop less in general and 53% said that they would be buying in bulk.

“During the recession, consumers adopted thriftier spending behaviors, and as time went on, they became comfortable with making concessions and getting by with less,” said Dori Hickey, director of product development at NPD and author of "What’s Next on the Road to Recovery." “At the height of the recession, consumers said they used coupons more, were stocking up on sale items, buying more private labels [and] shopping at discount stores more, among other money-saving strategies. With food prices rising and consumers experienced at getting the most from their food dollars, consumers are going to be increasing these types of behaviors once again.”

Mark East, president of the food and beverage unit at NPD, noted that manufacturers and retailers should "understand the shifts in consumers’ attitudes and behaviors" amid rising food and gas prices.

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Fresh & Easy’s design contest: It’s in the bag

BY Allison Cerra

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy is bringing back its Design-a-Bag contest, which invites customers to design and vote on the grocer’s next reusable bag that will be sold in its stores.

Now through May 15, customers ages 13 years and older can submit their original designs to Freshandeasy.com/designabag. Last year’s Design-A-Bag contest generated more than 1,300 design submissions from customers and 24,000 votes through its Friends of Fresh & Easy page, in which customers sign up to receive the latest news about Fresy and Easy, as well as exclusive offers.

The winning bag design will be chosen from June 21 through July 10. Finalists will each receive a $100 Fresh & Easy gift card and the winning designer will win a year’s worth of free groceries, valued at $5,000.

"Our first Design-A-Bag contest was a huge hit, and customers loved the great design that won, so we’re excited to bring back the contest this year," said Roberto Munoz, Fresh & Easy director neighborhood affairs. "We believe that offering affordable — and hip — reusable bag options will continue to encourage customers to use them even more."

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Kroger to implement Sharps Compliance’s TakeAway program

BY Allison Cerra

HOUSTON — Sharps Compliance’s TakeAway envelope solution is making its way to Kroger and its family of stores.

Kroger, which operates stores under several banners across 31 states, will offer the the medication disposal envelopes at its pharmacy counters. The goal: to offer a safe and environmentally responsible means of disposing unused, expired or unwanted noncontrolled prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Kroger joins such retailers as Rite Aid, which recently implemented Sharps Compliance’s TakeAway program in its stores.

"Sharps is a leading provider of solutions for the proper handling and disposal of individuals’ unwanted or expired prescription or OTC medications, and we are excited that our TakeAway System will now be available in Kroger pharmacies," said David Tusa, Sharps Compliance president and CEO. "We estimate that more than 200 million lbs. of unused dispensed medications each year are disposed of improperly and as a result are adversely affecting our water systems and placing our citizens at risk for accidental poisonings. We believe our cost-effective and convenient solutions are ideal for addressing these issues."

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