While a majority of Mainers do most of their food shopping at chain grocery stores, a recent phone survey of 590 people found more than half supplement that with purchases at farmers markets and farm stands.
The survey, published this month by the Maine Food Strategy Research Committee, identifies a broad range of Mainers’ food purchasing habits with the hope of developing a strategy for the state and region’s food systems.
The survey found that 80 percent of Maine residents do most of their food shopping at chain grocery stores. Of that group, 56 percent said they also shop at a food stand or farmers market.
The survey comes as supermarkets continue to lose their share of the market for food buyers. Seafood Source reported the food retail consulting company Willard Bishop estimated in a recent webinar that traditional supermarkets are taking less than 50 percent of food and consumables spending in the U.S., down from a 90 percent share in 1988.
The Maine survey addressed questions outside of specific purchases as well, identifying a stated preference for food produced locally.
Nearly all respondents — 93 percent — said they consider freshness when purchasing food while 70 percent said they consider cost. More than half of respondents said they consider how their food was raised, where it comes from and whether it is free of antibiotics or hormones.
The survey also asked respondents what they identify as “local food,” with 61 percent saying food produced in Maine. Nearly 20 percent of respondents said they consider the boundaries of their county local, 9 percent said within New England and 6 percent said within their town.
Nearly half of the respondents said they have purchased Maine-raised or Maine-caught fish in the past month, with most of those purchases occurring at chain grocery stores and about 30 percent of seafood purchased from fish stores or lobster pounds. Around a quarter of respondents said the product’s certification as organic factors into their purchasing decision.
Beyond the grocery store, around one third of respondents in the survey said they supply some of their own food by gardening, hunting, fishing or gathering food in the wild.
The survey, which contacted households randomly by phone in each county based on the percentage of the total state population in that county, was conducted by the Survey Research Center at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service and the report compiled by the Maine Food Strategy Research Committee.