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The Future of Retail: Benefits Outweigh Brand in Driving Consumer Decision-Making


A pivotal shift in consumer behavior illuminated the discussions at Natural Products Expo West 2024 in Anaheim, California, as highlighted during an educational panel titled “The Future of Retail.” Hosted on March 13, the session, backed by fresh insights from Nielson IQ, unraveled a new paradigm in the retail and grocery sectors—product benefits are now the primary drivers of consumer decision-making, overshadowing traditional brand loyalty.

Brandon Galindo, Senior Vice President of Sales – Product Insights at Nielson IQ, encapsulated this trend succinctly, “Brands don’t drive decisions. Benefits do.” This shift indicates a significant transformation in consumer priorities, with individuals increasingly seeking products that align with their personal and ethical values. The data presented revealed that the “Better For” categories—clean ingredients, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and social responsibility—are at the forefront of this change, experiencing the highest sales volumes.

Kenneth Juskowiac, Managing Director of Emerging Brands at Nielson IQ, further elaborated on this trend, noting, “Not only are ‘Better For’ products driving sales, but these sales are accelerated when multiple of the criteria are met. Products with more than one of these claims see more growth.” This insight underscores the multifaceted nature of consumer demands, where products that fulfill several ‘better for’ criteria simultaneously are more likely to win over the modern shopper.

Moreover, the growth in “Better For” product sales spans a broad range of food categories across the grocery store, including children’s food, bagels, beverages, dressings, performance nutrition, condiments, and cereal/granola. This diversity highlights the expansive impact of the trend, affecting nearly every aspect of the grocery shopping experience.

A key driving force behind this shift is the changing demographics of the consumer base. Millennials and Gen Z represent the highest dollar per buyer value for “Better For” products, signaling a generational pivot towards more conscious consumption. Krystal Dawson, Vice President of Account Development at Nielson IQ, pointed out, “61% of consumers say ‘natural’ is more important to them than it was 5 years ago.” This statistic not only reflects growing consumer awareness but also a profound change in how people define value in their purchasing decisions.

Understanding these trends is crucial for aligning product offerings with consumer expectations. The insights from Expo West 2024 serve as a beacon for the future of retail, where the benefits and values a product embodies are the main attractions for consumers, heralding a new era of empowered consumers driving decisions in the retail landscape.