Price still rules at U.S. supermarkets

 U.S. grocery shoppers continue to pinch pennies, including buying more private label food products at supermarkets, according to the Food Marketing Institute's new Grocery Shopper Trends 2009 report.

"Shoppers are focused on finding the best prices for the food they purchase," said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI in Arlington, Va., which surveyed more than 2,000 consumers nationwide for the report. "It is the No. 1 reason consumers pick which stores they shop at to stock up, and which ones they choose for fill-in trips."

As a result, shoppers are buying more private label brands, preparing meals at home rather than eating out, and planning purchases before they go to the supermarket. Many of these trends, including buying private label, are expected to continue in the near future.

The survey found that 55 percent of consumers are preparing more meals at home and 69 percent are eating out less.

"Preparing meals at home is the best way to control food costs and ensure healthy eating," said Sarasin.

A majority of consumers (92 percent) said they eat healthier when dining at home.

Buying sustainable and locally grown food products is important to consumers; 72 percent said they buy locally grown products on a regular basis and 59 percent said retailers' recycling and sustainability efforts are important to them.

Buying private label or store brands appears to be a lasting supermarket consumer trend. One-quarter of all shoppers said they will be purchasing more store brand products a year from now, and 72 percent said they will be purchasing about the same amount of store brands.

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