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WASHINGTON - Reflecting continuing concerns over the direction of the U.S. economy, consumers are twice as likely to consider price as a reason for purchasing a brand-name product as they were a year ago, according to a survey released Friday by the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
"Quality" is still the number one reason people purchase their favorite brands, cited by 26 percent of respondents, followed closely by the familiarity factor (a brand they already use), at 23 percent. In a similar survey taken in April 2002, 28 percent listed "quality" as the top reason, and 35 percent cited familiarity.
Nostalgia played the same role in 2003 purchasing decisions as in 2002, as 15 percent of respondents in each survey said the chief reason they bought a particular brand was because they used that brand at home while growing up. However, 11 percent of respondents listed "it is inexpensive" as the top reason for purchasing their favorite brand, compared to six percent last year.
"The change isn't surprising considering the economic reality many Americans face," said Gene Grabowski, GMA VP, communications and marketing. "From sliding stocks to unemployment, families are forced to tighten their purse strings. The larger economic market has begun to affect local supermarkets."
Demonstrating that peer pressure affects adults as well, one-third of respondents said in both surveys that a recommendation from a friend would be the top reason they would consider changing brands. Getting a free sample of a product was cited by 19 percent in 2003, nearly identical to the previous survey's respondents (18 percent).
The survey also asked about two issues that have garnered recent media attention, acrylamide in food and obesity in the general public. In 2002, seven in 10 people had never heard of acrylamide, a number that jumped to eight in 10 in 2003. In July 2002, an overwhelming majority (71 percent) had no plans to change their diet, compared to 67 percent in 2003. Slightly more people report having already changed their diet, up 4 percent from last summer (8 percent versus 12 percent). The same number as last year, 12 percent, say they plan to change their diet, but have not done so yet.
When it comes to who is responsible for obesity, a majority of Americans say that individuals should look to themselves. More than eight in 10 Americans still blame some individually controlled factor, either the individual, a lack of exercise, or watching television, for obesity (83 percent in 2003, 86 percent in 2002). Notably, only 5 percent blame the fast food phenomenon or larger portion sizes, and 4 percent hold food manufacturers themselves responsible.
The questions were part of a nationwide omnibus survey of 1,000 adult conducted from Feb. 5, 2003 to Feb. 11, 2003 for GMA by the polling company. The margin of error for the survey is calculated at +3.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, meaning, that the results obtained would differ by no more than 3.5 percentage points in either direction in roughly 19 out of 20 cases had the entire population nationwide been surveyed.