Puerto Rican consumers are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and savvy when it comes to buying the food they consume, as they look for quality at good prices, the Food Marketing Industry and Distribution Chamber said Wednesday during a “sneak peek” of this year’s Consumer X-Ray study results.
The 19th edition of the annual survey draws from a database of 6,700 interviews divided by regions, socio-economic status and by generations. The poll produces data about attitudes and behaviors consumers display when making their purchases and the frequency with which they spend per category.
“What we see year after year through this study is that people are learning about how to buy products that respond to their needs,” said Richard Valdés, head of trade group’s Consumer X-Ray committee. “Consequently, consumers are more educated, aware and know how to compare. They’re looking for the best price for the best quality.”
Among other things, this year’s survey showed that consumers are highly influenced by store weekly specials and word-of-mouth, when it comes to shopping, said Valdés.
“Today’s consumer is savvy, and more demanding each day. They want quality at a good price,” Valdés said.
While keeping a lid on the specific results obtained through this year’s survey, which will be unveiled July 7 during MIDA’s annual convention, Valdés said the poll showed that 60 percent of consumers think generic store brands are “excellent” or “good” and that 85 percent of the group said they will buy generic brands next year, while another 60 percent has taken steps to improve their nutrition.
Generic brands, or private labels, offer nearly the same product quality as their national brand counterparts, but with discounts of as much as 30 percent. In recent years, local retailers have expanded their private label portfolio as cash-strapped consumers seek to stretch a buck while at the store.
‘Extreme couponing’ no local craze
When it comes to saving money at the register, it’s tough to beat the people featured on The Learning Channel’s “Extreme Couponing,” a weekly reality show that follows around several women who meticulously plan their shopping trips pairing regular grocery store sales with manufacturer’s discount coupons to pay nothing or next to nothing for their massive purchases. The women build stockpiles resembling grocery stores in their homes, which they show off proudly before the cameras.
It’s probably a safe bet to say that the phenomenon TLC explores every week may never reach island shores, as the practice of using manufacturer’s discount coupons has never been widespread in Puerto Rico. The general aversion to ‘couponing’ is a cultural phenomenon that has more than once been attributed to a negative stigma that dates to the early 80s, when food stamps distributed on the island were referred to as “cupones.”
However, a number of large local retailers, including Pueblo, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, accept manufacturer’s discount coupons, including those that can be printed at home off the Internet, News is my Business has learned.
In the case of Pueblo, a manager at the Isla Verde location said the store will not only honor manufacturer’s coupons, but it will allow customers to use them on top of discounted prices.
“For example, this Sunday, Procter & Gamble will publish their super-saver coupons catalog and we’re ready to accept it,” said the manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
There are literally hundreds of online sites that post manufacturer’s coupons that can be printed at home and used at the store. While many of those sites require signing up to their databases, doing so is quick and can often lead to significant savings. However, it must be said that many of those sites block Puerto Rico IP addresses, so getting to them is often challenging.
Bruni Torres, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Puerto Rico said as long as the register recognizes the bar code, printed coupons are accepted.
“It’s one coupon per item, which must be identical to what appears on the coupon, and it must not be expired,” she said, mentioning several points of the retailer’s coupon policy.
While the store policy is clear, the same can not be said about how aware the retailer’s 3,000-plus cashiers are, as evidenced during a recent trip to Wal-Mart in Bayamón, when News is my Business was told flat out by the employee behind the register that print-at-home coupons were not accepted.
“Due to the sheer size of the company, cashiers have to be constantly trained. That cashier was mistaken, and before saying no, she should have double-checked with the store manager or the supervisor,” Torres said.