Graduates Win with Aunts and Uncles

Graduation Season is here! The time to celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments and the beginning of a promising new stage. Parents couldn’t be prouder, Grandma is definitely going to cry, and aunts and uncles apparently get generous.

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According to one of our recent surveys, more graduation gifts are purchased for nieces and nephews than anyone else. This makes sense, especially in bigger families where people likely have have more nieces and nephews than sons or daughters. So what are they gifting?

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Graduates received mostly gift cards this year, with greeting cards and actual cash also among the popular gift-giving options. Other gifts like coffee and cars—much needed elements of adulthood—get honorable mentions. Female grads were more likely to receive flowers, while male grads were more likely to receive electronics.

When deciding what to gift a graduate, the number one consideration was “something that would be useful” in the next stage of their life. One curious data point also related to this decision is that uncles and aunts were more likely to ask the family and friends of the grad for gift recommendations, while mom and dad were more likely to ask the grad directly.

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Gift card purchasers are twice as likely to buy a greeting card in the same shopping trip during graduation season than during the Christmas season. The difference suggests that shoppers try to get gift and greeting cards in the same trip for graduates, while spreading the purchase of those two categories across more trips during the holiday period.


Another tip for all retailers out there: an overwhelming 61% of shoppers return to buy their graduation greeting cards at the same retailer where they bought their Mother’s Day card. So if you’re capturing that Mother’s Day shopper, you’re more likely to capture the graduation greeting card shopper.


As to which retailers people prefer for purchasing their greeting cards, the usual suspects of Walmart and Target show up on top. There is also a considerable showing from the dollar channel (Dollar Tree and Dollar General), which achieved significantly high unit sales but underperformed in dollar sales, a common trait for the channel due to its usually lower price points.


In summary, parents need to step up their gifting game. Spoiling uncles everywhere are going for the cash game while parents skew towards the traditionally more emotional and thoughtful greeting cards.
As a marketer, are you interested in knowing more about seasonal gifting in your category or other aspects of shopping behavior? Are you curious about which brands of gift cards these graduates received? Get in touch with us at and we’ll be happy to help you out!

Samsung, PS4 and iPad Win with Consumers at Sam’s Club pre-Black Friday Sale

On Saturday, November 14th, Sam’s Club held its first sale of the holiday shopping season. An early ‘leak‘ of the day’s deals had delighted shoppers taking to online forums to debate which ones were the best. With 4,272 Sam’s Club shopping receipts from Saturday’s sale submitted to InfoScout through our nationally representative panel of over 300,000 Americans, we decided to tally the votes based on which deals shoppers actually bought.



The most outstanding performance goes to Samsung which sold 1.5-times as many TV’s as its nearest competitor: Vizio. Samsung led the charge with a ‘sound bar bundle’ that seemed to resonate a lot with consumers. We’ve previously seen the effectiveness of this ‘bundling’ technique being used for game console sales.


Speaking of bundles and games, the PlayStation 4 bundle with the ‘Uncharted: The Nathan Series Collection’ game sold more than three times as many consoles as the Xbox One bundle which included an extra controller.


Apple’s iPad Air 2 edged HP Notebooks by a 3-to-2 margin within the converging category of laptops and tablets. The iPad Mini, by contrast, barely even registered in comparison.


The real winner here was Sam’s Club which saw a significant increase in shopping trips and gained a 4% in its share of wallet among known Sam’s Club shoppers when compared to the same Saturday one-year ago. To find out if Sam’s Club just shifted sales a bit earlier in the season versus actually increasing their overall share of the Christmas shopping season, stay tuned for our real-time coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Press contact for additional insights or data to support custom stories: CJ Acosta

Client contact for real-time insights throughout the holiday shopping season: Ben Ahn

Cruel Summer


Summer is in full swing, and in this new, warmer season, most of us would care to shed not just a few layers of clothing, but also a few pounds. Thus begins the inevitable annual fitness battle against inertia and bad habits…all for the sake of the desirable ‘bikini body’ (and the male equivalent!).

84% of Americans surveyed by InfoScout stated they wanted to lose weight or get in shape for the summer. Yet 67% also said they don’t get enough exercise. If only someone could wave a wand and allow us to get fit without all that excruciating effort!

No pain, no gain…

The simple truth is that most Americans plan to lose weight through a tried and true formula of more exercise (81%), healthier eating (68%), and nutritional supplements (16%).

In terms of exercise, women were much more likely to favor walking (49% of surveyed women vs. 35% of men) while men were more likely to favor weightlifting (26% vs. 9% of women).

You are what you eat…

In terms of supplements…not surprisingly, when we investigated sales among InfoScout shopper panelists, we also found that weight/fat loss products peak in sales dollar volume from January through June in the run-up to summer (and quickly trails off after that).


This makes sense given typically different fitness goals of weight/fat loss (70% of women vs. 58% of men) and muscle building (3% of women vs. 16% of men).


On store shelves in time for the summer

We’re also keeping our eye on several new ‘healthy’ snacks that recently launched.  We invited InfoScout panelists who had tried the products to rate them, including:


Are we in the midst of a gummy supplement bubble?

Lastly, according to a study of transaction data from InfoScout’s panelist shopper database, sales of adult gummy and chewable nutritional supplements grew 4.5x faster than the nutritional supplements category in January, February, and March 2014, suggesting adults are increasingly embracing their inner child.  To dig deeper into the data, InfoScout surveyed consumers and asked respondents their preferred format for taking nutritional supplements. Most respondents stated they preferred their supplements in capsule form (28%), although chewable gummies and candies ranked second most popular (20%), beating out bars, cookies, gels, powders, and ready-to-drink items. Once a bribe to entice kids, gummy vitamins have taken off with sweet-toothed adults.

The trend is picking up steam. Even Martha Stewart, who was always best known for cooking and crafts, has jumped into the market. Around June 2014, she launched a new line of Martha Stewart gummy supplements, which included an email blast with the following announcement:


Healthy Eating Is Not A SNAP


The White House and USDA are strong advocates of healthy eating, providing U.S. citizens guidance on how to achieve balanced nutrition on a reasonable budget. But is the federal government’s food assistance program able to help those most in need meet its own recommendations? In light of the recent changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the team at InfoScout wanted to find out.

In 2013, SNAP – also known as food stamps – provided an average monthly benefit of $133 per person and $275 per household in 2013, reaching 48 million people across 23 million households. SNAP benefits were decreased by about $10 per month per person in November 2013, reducing the maximum benefit to $189 per individual. Given this reduction in benefits, we decided to explore the extent to which beneficiaries of the program could eat healthily on the reduced budget of $189. Let’s find out.

The USDA’s website provides a plethora of information for a healthy lifestyle, from weight management and physical activity tools and guidelines to tips for eating healthy when eating out. The site showcases various cookbooks including a 7-day meal plan that meets a recommended 2000-calorie diet with the right balance of food groups and nutrient intake, all at a “moderate cost”.


So we try to answer the question: can an individual relying solely on government benefits afford to follow the government’s recommendations regarding a balanced diet?

Over the past two years, InfoScout has established America’s largest and richest source of household purchases across all retailers at the item level. With this data we are able to dig into real-world food spending patterns to find out.

We began by looking at each recipe and its ingredients within the USDA’s 7-day meal plan. We took each ingredient from the USDA recommended menu and paired it with the top-selling product corresponding to that ingredient from our InfoScout database, where we’re able to see per-basket SNAP purchases. Factoring in the packaging sizes and prices per serving of each ingredient, we calculated the price of each meal.

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We found that a single adult following the USDA recommended 2000-calorie diet would spend nearly $8 per day, or $240 per month at current food prices. That’s $51 more per month than the maximum benefit allowable under the SNAP program. Put in practical terms, this means that even with a perfectly-planned and executed grocery budget, a SNAP recipient would only be able to feed themselves until the 24th day of the month, and run out of financial support before dinner.


This gap becomes even more prominent as the household size grows. For each additional household member, the incremental allotment decreases. So while an individual can get $189 each month, a household of two gets $347, or $173.50 each. As these per-person benefits decrease, the cost of feeding each person remains the same. So as you can see, that gap grows tremendously as the need increases.

As the household size grows, so does the gap between the home's benefits and its food expenses.

With healthy diets clearly so far out of reach for the 47 million Americans relying on the government for support, it is no surprise that those in the lower income brackets turn to higher-calorie, though often nutritionally-poor, meals. We found that, compared to high-income consumers, lower-income Americans have a 30% shift in their food expenditures towards snack foods (like potato chips, cookies, and candy) and away from nutritional foods (like yogurt, fruits, and vegetables). While the USDA-suggested diet clocks in at about 247 calories per dollar, our study of the most purchased snack foods yielded an average of 672 calories per dollar, with popular brands of chips leading the pack at an incredibly efficient 752 calories per dollar.

Calorie counting doesn’t stop at the grocery store, especially with more and more fast-food chains accepting food stamps. A quick study of Burger King, KFC, and Subway, where a standard meal-deal includes an burger or sandwich, side of fries or chips, and a soda yielded an average price of around 250 calories per dollar – effectively the same cost per calorie as the buying groceries to follow the USDA suggested meal plan. And since fast food doesn’t require any meal-planning, grocery-shopping, or cooking, it’s unsurprising that low-income consumers often prefer a meal on-demand. The problem, of course, is that a fast food diet can easily result in 230% excess fat and 370% more sodium than recommended, all while offering fewer key nutrients.

Moreover, low-income consumers can stretch their food budgets further with choices like McDonald’s McDouble sandwich which packs 390 calories for just $1 – that’s 58% more calories per dollar than buying healthy foods at a grocery store. If a person could live off McDouble’s alone (not that anyone is suggesting that’s a good idea), they’d save $90 per month compared to a healthy diet of home-cooked meals and be able to feed themselves via food stamps throughout the entire month.

Whether it’s the relatively cheap meals on-demand offered by quick service restaurants or the low-cost calories of snack foods like potato chips, we should not be surprised to know that lower income Americans (especially women) are more likely to be overweight or obese while also experiencing poorer health and shorter lifespans. With the rapid rise from 11% of American households receiving support from the SNAP in 2008 to 20% of households in 2013, at a cost of nearly $80 billion, it’s no wonder that the programs merits and funding have been hotly debated in Congress. At InfoScout, our intent is not to fuel the debate as to whether SNAP funding should be increased or decreased to support more or fewer participants. Instead, we believe the data begs for further debate over fundamental policy questions such as:

~ Should SNAP offer greater incentives towards purchases of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables to help improve the healthy outcomes that everyone desires from such a program?

~ Should the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program even allow the purchases of junk foods and fast foods that fail to meet basic nutritional standards? (Especially considering the fact that these foods offer lower costs per calorie to those Americans who can’t afford to follow a healthy meal plan.)

~ How should we prioritize healthy eating amid a growing base of people relying on federal support, and the associated growing costs?

In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts and feedback as we continue to study real-world purchasing behavior.