Micro-trips the new norm in grocery

PwC looks at the frequency at which Canadians shop in its latest consumer insights survey.


In PwC’s grocery survey, the firm found that micro-trips to the store are the new norm.

The 2019 Canadian Consumer Insights Survey: Shifting consumer demands in grocery saw PwC survey 1,000 respondents. It found that “micro-trips” (five-minute in-store visits during the week) – in contradistinction to one big grocery haul on the weekend – are happening more.

The data shows that 26% of respondents make these micro grocery trips two to three times a week, while another 23% do them weekly, and another 10% do them daily.

“Most Canadians don’t know what they’re going to have for dinner before 4pm, which is driving stopover trips like this,” says Myles Gooding, national retail and consumer lead, PwC Canada, adding that the trend is being driven by Canadians’ busy lives.

“What we are finding is that the large Saturday shopping experience is mostly related to non-perishables and CPGs, bags of sugar, pasta, aluminum foil… things that will sit in a pantry that will be continually utilized during the week,” Gooding says, adding that micro trips include more fresh items, bread, meat, cheese and produce.

Shopper excursions also range from national supermarkets to smaller specialty stores in urban centres. In particular, there has been increased activity in specialty cheese, butcher shops, fishmongers, and the like. And these specialty stores continued to gain ground in 2018, according to PwC, with sales growing in almost every province. Factors contributing to the rise of the specialty food store include growing preference for plant-based food and humanely raised meat, along with the rise of conscientious buyers who are focused on climate change.

“Specialty organizations like Rowe Farms or Eataly, are going to continue to put pressure on larger grocery stores to differentiate themselves in terms of ‘fresh,’” Gooding says. He says the reason consumers are drawn to these kinds of destinations, is that they are perceived as more sustainable and shoppers feel better knowing where products are sourced.

Among the report’s other findings, consistent with trends toward zero-waste grocery shopping, is that sustainability is top-of-mind for consumers. The data finds that 42% of respondents agreed with the statement, “I prefer to use less plastic when possible” and “I buy items with less packaging.” Also, 38% of respondents say they look for products with green-friendly packaging, and 33% say they look for products that are sustainable. A further 28% buy brands that promote sustainable practices.

When in store, 52% of Canadians overall (both micro and macro shoppers alike) cited speed and convenience as their main priorities when grocery shopping, followed by ease of payment (32%), including mobile and contactless payment.

And while Amazon is throwing its weight around stateside in the food category, Canadians are still reticent of online grocery shopping, instead preferring to shop in-store. In fact, only 20% say they would “likely” purchase groceries online in the next 12 months, and another 69% saying they were “unsure or not likely.” This could be the result of Canadians still wanting to touch and feel their produce, he says. Canadians may be more concerned about produce being damaged in transport over larger distances than those in the U.S., where adoption of online delivery like Amazon Prime is far higher due to scale.