Shoppers are spending more than half of their fresh-food dollars in supermarkets and want professionals on the shopping floor to support healthier eating habits and to guide food-buying decisions, according to the 2014 Annual National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Survey released at the National Grocers Association (NGA) annual convention taking place in Las Vegas. 

More than 1,380 chief household shoppers completed surveys that detailed their experiences, behaviors and sentiments on what appeals to them (or not) about supermarkets, as well as their purchase influences, eating habits and nutritional concerns. A total of 133 shopping attributes are addressed in this year's survey.

According to the survey results, 85.9 percent of respondents say they spend more than half of their fresh-food dollars in supermarkets. This is up from 84.3 percent in the prior two years. Consumers also say they would rely more on nutritionists and dietitians on a regular basis - and some would pay for services tied to their individual wellness goals, weight loss, and best foods for specific health conditions. 

Among other issues important to shoppers include: the retailers convenient location and access, navigable layouts and checkout processes that save time; courteous, custom services for people with special needs; the use of technology to tailor marketing messages and promotional offers; and, caring about the customer, among other issues. 

"The survey shows that independent and local stores that perform well on these points can enhance a shoppers' ability to integrate food into their lifestyles on their terms," says Peter J. Larkin, President and CEO, NGA. "The more personalized the shopping experience at friendly, nimble regional supermarkets, the greater their edge over retailers less connected to communities and less empowered to please people as personal situations arise." 

"So there is an emotional side to where shoppers decide to do most of their food shopping," say Phil Lempert, CEO of and The Lempert Report. "But practicality rules the store selection process. Regionals need to enhance their place in shoppers' hearts with performance excellence that earns them a place in shoppers' minds." 

Shoppers are also closely watching their wallets and the value with 79.6 percent saying accurate shelf tags are "very important. In addition, personal safety outside the store is up more than 3 points to 64.5 percent saying it's "very important."

Lempert adds, "This figure shows it's not just what's inside the store that counts. Surrounding areas have to be approachable and make people feel secure."