The 21st edition of the Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Chamber’s “Consumer X-Ray” study shows a Puerto Rican consumer who has evolved and adapted to an economic crisis that is not yet over, to become a “strategic, savvy buyer.”
And the new habits acquired during tough times are here to stay, according to the comprehensive study that will be revealed in its entirety on June 20, when the trade group known as MIDA will celebrate its annual convention.
Among other findings, the X-Ray shows that consumers are favoring ready-to-eat food that can be prepared to eat at home, gravitating toward less expensive private-label (or generic) brands as well as locally produced goods, and are increasingly accepting and using manufacturer discount coupons.
“The study gives us a clear picture of how the buyer has evolved when we hear them say ‘They have their strategy and I have mine,’ which we believe sums up the most significant findings of this study,” said MIDA President Ferdysac Márquez. “That is the key indicator that lets us know that we have to continue evolving as an industry and move ever closer to that buyer who year after year, is more knowledgeable of the market.”
The study reveals that 95 percent of consumers are eating at home and often favor ready-to-eat items that can be easily prepared. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 consumers are willing to increase their consumption of local products and 86 percent confirm being familiar with the “Hecho en Puerto Rico” (“Made in Puerto Rico”) brand used to identify island goods.
Interestingly, the study confirmed that two out of every five households are growing produce at home, specifically aromatic herbs used in cooking. About 46 percent of the buyers in this group fall into the “baby boomer” category.
For the study, MIDA commissioned Gather International to conduct 1,350 interviews between April and May 2013, sampling consumers islandwide. The study also relied on a database of 9,800 interviews accumulated since 2006, as well as a series of focus groups to validate the findings.
Diana Rodríguez, who chaired the X-Ray committee, said the study depicted a buyer who, if dissatisfied with a retailer or the products available, will walk away from a purchase.
“The buyer is not limited to being a mere spectator, they know what they want and through the study told us their suggestions for how grocers can best meets their needs,” she said.
While 68 percent of consumers have changed their product preference if they can’t find it on the shelves, another 49 percent admitted they were willing to go to other retail outlets — bakeries, pharmacies or gas station convenience stores — to find it.
Meanwhile, the study also confirmed that nine out of 10 consumers are now buying private-label products instead of national brands. However, the specific categories were not revealed.
Manufacturers coupons gaining traction
One of the questions included in the analysis refers to the use of manufacturers discount coupons in Puerto Rico — a practice that has been growing in recent years.
This year’s X-Ray confirms that one out of five consumers on the island is applying this type of payment method to their purchases. That 20 percent is three percentage points above the 17 percent reported in the 2012 study and somewhat reinforces a movement that has been taking place among local manufacturers and retailers to include coupons in their marketing strategies.
“We see a marked difference in the profile of consumers who are using manufacturers coupons. It’s the younger generation who is using them most, especially those that are available online, or via their smartphone apps,” said Rodríguez. “The older generation, although they know of them, are still having a hard time managing how to use them. Still, the manufacturer coupon today is just a valid a tool as the store flyers are.”
Edith Tapia, founder and manager of the Cuponeando en Puerto Rico website, said the year-over-year growth is “proof that more and more Puerto Ricans are looking for creative alternatives to stretch their money to the max.”
“I think the retailer or manufacturer that doesn’t pay attention and/or chooses not to use this win-win marketing strategy risks losing customers and seeing a drop in sales as couponers will be loyal to the company that helps them in these times of economic crisis,” Tapia said.
Aside from unveiling the X-Ray, MIDA has a full schedule of educational seminars lined up around the convention’s “Transforming the island from the table” theme.