The Tylt

Economic and environmental concerns meet with younger shoppers.

The way we shop in grocery stores is changing. A growing interest in organic, sustainable produce; a need for awareness about ingredients, additives and genetically modified products; and a mounting concern for the environmental impact of plastics all add up to a shift in buyers’ and sellers’ habits. What does this change look like, and where do young generations like to shop?

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One notable change is in shopping bags. A growing number of American cities and states are passing laws against plastic bags, which are not biodegradable and can harm animal life. When we asked our readers—largely Gen Z and Millennials—“Have you stopped using plastic bags?” a sizable 64.7% said that they had. This is significant because the question isn’t “Do you plan to stop using plastic bags?” Rather, it shows a solid consumer awareness and a behavioral change already firmly in place. Not surprisingly, 74% of our readers also support banning plastic straws.

Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, two national chains popular with young shoppers, make for an interesting comparison among our readers. Both stores have plenty of organic options, clearly labeled ingredients and sources, and are, in varying degrees, environmentally conscientious. Both stores use paper bags.

Which do our readers prefer? As the data shows, the majority of people responding were under 35, with the largest segment (25–34) making up 42% of total votes. Trader Joe’s won out over Whole Foods by a margin of 14%. Whole Foods has more variety and is less expensive than smaller health-food stores and gourmet shops. Trader Joe’s on the other hand leans on reliable in-house brands, lots of prepared food and employees with sunny demeanors.

The difference, ultimately, may be one of perception. Whole Foods, for a long time, was jokingly called “Whole Paycheck,” as it was considered a store for the upper-middle class or higher. Since Whole Foods merged with Amazon, however, their prices have dropped substantially, placing it in the same general price bracket with the already affordable Trader Joe’s. But it may take a while before the old perception is shed. Given a choice between environmentally conscientious stores, the winner is the one that seems the most affordable.

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