Consumer behaviour has changed when shopping for food: hybrid consumption is a stronger phenomenon than price consciousness

Consumption habits are clearly changing. According to research commissioned by K Group on food and consumer habits, the choices consumers make when buying food are more informed, consumers increasingly invest in food quality and grocery stores are expected to have a wider selection of food than before. The research finds that almost half of all Finns fall into this new category: the hybrid consumer.

According to the study commissioned by the K Group*, consumer behaviour when purchasing food has changed and a new kind of consumer behaviour has emerged and become more commonplace than the price conscious consumer. This new type of consumer has been labelled the hybrid consumer, a consumer for whom only the highest quality or the most ethical option for a particular product is acceptable, but who is simultaneously extremely  price conscious about another product.

“Consumer awareness has clearly increased – two-thirds of Finns say they make more informed choices about the food they buy than they did previously. What the hybrid consumer is willing to pay or what brings them satisfaction varies greatly between individuals,” says researcher Hanna Santavuori of Frankly Partners, who conducted the study.

Millennials show the future direction of hybrid consumption

According to the study, hybrid consumers can be found in all income categories. The underlying phenomena of hybrid consumption is also visible in the international arena.

“The Internet's ability to search for information and compare products, increased levels of knowledge, an explosive growth in the range of goods on offer and, conversely, the continued economic downturn are all things that have paved the way for this rise in hybrid consumption,” says Santavuori.

“People's behaviour has permanently changed and the significance of the phenomenon of hybrid consumption will continue to grow. In particular, the Millennial generation indicate the future direction of consumption. They spend time searching for new alternatives, find quality that is inexpensive, invest in themselves and want to stand out from the crowd. Food choices do not just depend solely on price – the hybrid consumer wants a varied range of food, local food, ethical products, the best quality and they will often even treat or indulge themselves,” says Ari Akseli, Vice President for Commecer, Kesko's grocery trade.

The change is reflected in the growth of the range of food on offer

As awareness increases, having options is valued more than before. According to the study, as many as 84% of Finns appreciate the wide range of food available. The change in consumer habits is reflected in the growth in the range and diversity of food available in stores.

“Over the last 10 years, our range has expanded from roughly 10,000 to nearly 30,000 products. We will have 1.8 million customer visits this year, which means 1.8 million different shopping baskets. For example, shopping for the week and shopping for the weekend differ greatly from each other,” says Toni Pokela, retailer at K-Citymarket Iso Omena Espoo.

The age of the hybrid consumer: a summary of the results of the study

What kinds of consumer types were identified on the basis of the research?

- Finnish consumers are divided in different ways, principally price-based or value-based. Approximately, every second Finn (48% of the respondents) is a hybrid consumer.

• A diverse food selection is valued by 40% (hybrid consumer)
• Quality service is appreciated by 8% (hybrid consumer)
• Assured low prices are valued by 33%
• Customer loyalty benefits and campaigns are valued by 19%

Image: Every second Finn is a hybrid consumer.

What qualities define the hybrid consumer?

- A very demanding customer – at the same time rational and irrational, price conscious and quality conscious, thrifty but also a spendthrift and ecological while also hedonic.

- Their consumption mirrors their own relationship to the environment, their health and well-being, and who they are or would like to be.

- Makes choices based on their own values and selects, for example, high quality, locally produced, ethical or health products.

- What the hybrid consumer is willing to pay or what brings satisfaction will vary between individuals and even according to the situation.

What does a hybrid consumer appreciate when shopping at food stores?

- According to the study, 84% of Finns appreciate a wide range of products and the fact that products can be found for different occasions.

- 67% of Finns say they always want something unusual from time to time and will usually choose more expensive options than the basic products.

What do you find in a hybrid consumer’s shopping basket?

- Hybrid consumers move naturally between low price options and options that have significance for them:

• 65% of hybrid consumers say that they also find quality in the lower price options.
• 56% often find that they purchase special offers, even if they do not otherwise follow prices.
• 42% invest in quality more than before.

* A national survey of 1,026 adult respondents on food consumption commissioned by the K Group and carried out in March 2017. The respondents were selected based on age, sex and other variables to ensure that the results can be considered a reliable representation of Finnish consumers. The results of the research were qualified by examining the choices of small groups. The results reveal a change in consumption habits.

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