MIDA presents latest data as Consumer Radiography marks 40 Years

By John McPhaul

As part of the celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA by its Spanish acronym) announced Monday that during October it will present a commemorative publication that shows the historical contributions of MIDA through those 40 years as well as the 28th edition of its Consumer Radiography study.

“The 40-year issue, which will have more than 130 pages, will take the reader on a journey through history where we will be able to understand the reasons for the founding of MIDA, see photos and meet the key characters in that long history, see the image and logo changes, the different meetings with the government, contributions to the country, the various MIDA conventions and even the evolution of the Consumer Radiography study,” MIDA President Ferdysac Márquez said in a written statement.

Regarding Consumer Radiography (RC by its Spanish initials) 2020, Márquez said this time it is a 100 percent digital study with a 100 percent different offer.

“RC2020 offers three digital sessions focused on three topics highly relevant to the audience,” he said. “We will be focusing on the sessions on income and expenses, purchasing habits and marketing strategies, and the long-awaited digital topic along with innovations. This format allows the audience to receive in-depth data and the opportunity to interact, in a virtual way, with the panel of experts.”

According to the study, “the Puerto Rican consumer continues to evolve in the face of the constant changes in the social and economic environment on the island, resolutely adapting to prevail regardless of the challenges.”

“This resilient consumer is reflected in the Consumer Radiography 2020 study,” it says. “Emergency after emergency, from earthquakes, hurricanes, and a fiscal crisis, to global pandemic, the buying habits of the Puerto Rican consumer have been impacted and the study reveals this.”

“The Consumer Radiography allows us to observe key indicators in consumer habits,” MIDA Executive Vice President Manuel Reyes Alfonso said. “We continue to provide our partners with relevant information that allows them to anticipate changes in behavior for the development of future strategies.”

Márquez added that “Consumer Radiography 2020 analyzes the challenges in the face of the global emergency we are experiencing.”

“The Consumer Radiography study is based on a quantitative study of 1,360 interviews conducted during June and August 2020 in eight economic regions of the island,” he said. “Ensuring the safety of interviewees and interviewers, we turned to digital media to conduct the surveys, thus maximizing the capabilities of Nielsen, the research firm conducting the study this year. As part of the methodology, 75 percent of the ‘online’ interviews were used and 25 percent through the CATI [computer-assisted telephone interviewing] tool. The combination of both tools makes it possible to meet a wide range of demographic profiles. We complement the study with a qualitative phase of 10 virtual interviews. Responding to the reality we live in and ensuring everyone’s safety, the study will be presented virtually through the Zoom platform.”

Tatiana Irizarry, Caribbean sales leader at Nielsen Retail Intelligence, noted that “[a]s part of the demographics of the study, 56 percent of the respondents work in private, government or self-employment, with 34 percent retired or unemployed. The remaining 10 percent is distributed among students, housewives, and others.”

“In terms of socioeconomic status, 16 percent are at a high level, 54 percent are at a medium level, and 30 percent are at a low socioeconomic level,” she said. “Along these lines, 46 percent of those surveyed claimed to depend on the income from the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) for the purchase of food; 3 percent of those surveyed became new users of PAN during the pandemic.”

The RC2020 data on PAN are very similar to those provided by the island Family Department, which shows that as of Sept. 27 the program had 836,990 families with 1,505,093 participants throughout the island. The U.S. Census meanwhile estimated the population of the island for 2020 at around 3.4 million, which coincides with the fact that 46 percent of the population receives this aid.

As expected, average monthly spending reported an increase, reaching $500 per month, an increase of 18 percent compared to what was reported last year. That result is consistent with category sales figures, according to Nielsen’s syndicated Scantrack study. Spending appears to be driven by an increase in the frequency of visits to supermarkets, which were recorded at an average of eight visits per month versus six last year, an increase of 33 percent.

Likewise, monthly visits to convenience stores and pharmacies increased by a factor of three (from 1.4 to 4.3) and by six (from 1 to 6.8), respectively. These data can be explained by considering the significant injection of funds from PAN (which ended in September). To which is added the closure of other types of shops, as well as the limitations imposed on hotels, bars and restaurants, causing an increase in purchases and visits to supermarkets.

Meanwhile, the report found that the adult population continues to grow and adults’ dependence on their families continues to increase. A full 52 percent of respondents are 45 years or older and one in two respondents does the grocery shopping for their parents or in-laws. This finding is relevant to industry strategies and presents an enormous challenge to Puerto Rico’s public policy makers.

Among the positive news, it stands out that 95 percent of those surveyed claim that they will increase or continue to buy food produced locally. This represents an opportunity for the local industry caused by the shortage and limitation of supply from abroad during the pandemic.

Despite the limitations imposed by the government, three in four (77 percent) respondents claimed to have bought prepared food in the past month. Of those, 27 percent claim to have bought prepared food at supermarket delis. This implies that the delis of the supermarkets are a prepared food alternative for the consumer and represent an interesting proposal to continue developing.

Through recent years it has been seen how the purchase of items online has been on the rise. The COVID-19 emergency accelerated the adoption of the use of the internet to buy food; 24 percent of those surveyed claimed to have used a digital platform to buy food, a 60 percent increase vs. 2019. According to the study, although this tool is still under development in Puerto Rico, consumer acceptance is evident.

The emergence of COVID-19 has changed the importance of the different means of reaching the consumer and RC2020 undertook the task of understanding this dynamic. Email is the main form of communication on the part of the store that the consumer favors, followed by social networks.

Half of consumers follow an “influencer;” of these 40 percent are highly influenced in their purchase decision by celebrity endorsements. The boom in online shopping has created a dynamic where the comments or points that the products receive from consumers play an important role when selecting a product; one out of two consumers considers it very important, the study says.

Discount coupons continue to be used by 42 percent of respondents, who claim that they will definitely continue to use them. According to the study, consumers have the greatest interest in receiving discount coupons on cleaning products, hair care and for the purchase of protein.

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