Food Safety: High Stakes in Dairy-Deli-Bakery & Prepared Foods

June 15, 2015

One-third of U.S. shoppers have left unclean supermarkets. More than half would shop more in stores excelling in food safety, says new IDDBA-SupermarketGuru study.

Originally published in the latest issue of Facts, Figures & the Future, a weekly e-newsletter.

Shoppers are like hawks when it comes to food safety. They observe plenty standing on lines for prepared foods, deli, bakery and dairy items - not all of it good.  

New research by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery-Association and SupermarketGuru, The High Stakes of Food Safety in Dairy-Deli-Bakery & Prepared Foods, documents precisely what shoppers see and think - and how their perceptions shape trip frequency and basket size. 

The study findings, presented by Phil Lempert at this week's IDDBA Seminar & Expo, reveal a supermarket mandate to be impeccably clean and adhere to best practices in food safety to keep a watchful public confident. What people see in these areas of the store, they project to the entire store.  And it impacts a store's credibility with shoppers as a primary resource of health and wellness foods and beverages.

With this report, retailers for the first time have national consumer data (605 U.S. adults surveyed online this winter) to pinpoint exactly where to shore up food safety in dairy-deli-bakery and prepared foods, and the consequences of not doing so. 

Consider these study highlights:

  • One-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) have ended a supermarket visit due to store messiness. That's 1 in 3 consumers who'll abort a trip if a store is sub-standard in their eyes. 
  • Shoppers are pickier about food safety within dairy-deli-bakery than overall store cleanliness.Six out of 7 (85.2%) need to feel confident of food safety in these service areas before buying there; fewer (83.3%) shop in a supermarket only if it looks clean to them.
  • Five key traits of supermarket leadership in food safety stem directly from dairy-deli-bakery departments.  Excellence matters because the item varieties and services here distinctly separate supermarkets from many other kinds of food sellers. The traits are:

                    --Pristine areas where food is handled (55.1%)

                    --Food handlers wash hands, change gloves often in full view of customers (55.1%)

                    --Highest grade from a food safety inspector, posted for customers to see (32.0%)

                    --Food handlers wear hair restraint (28.0%)

                    --Food handlers wear clean jackets, aprons or uniforms (27.3%)

  • Supermarkets are the most trusted retail format for food safety. They command the #1 position with 60.1% of mentions, which is triple the mentions of specialty stores (20.0%), the #2 channel.  All other food sellers are in the single digits.
  • Supermarkets that commit to best practices in food safety would earn more total trips from shoppers, according to 52.4% of survey respondents. Also, nearly 4 in 10 consumers (38.7%) say they would spend more in dairy-deli-bakery departments with superior food safety practices in place.  Catering, anyone?
  • Consumers are deeply concerned about food safety - as they should be since CDC reports that 1 in 6 Americans (48 million) contract E.coli, listeria, salmonella or other foodborne illnesses each year. Yet consumers lack detailed knowledge of these diseases, contaminants, and retailer best practices. Their innate sense of what seems right and wrong takes them only so far. Supermarkets can bridge these knowledge gaps and build their own authority via educational programs, signage and consistency in their visible operating disciplines. 
  • The study also richly details what shoppers like and don't like in workers' physical appearance and hygiene habits; cleaning methods; state of the physical setting; food preparation and serving practices.