Most U.S. shoppers carry a shopping list to their grocery store and rarely buy on impulse, according to a recent consumer study.

A mid-September report from the Chicago-based market research company NPD Group found that 94% of U.S. households prepare a written shopping list before grocery shopping and 72% shoppers said they never or only occasionally buy items not on the list.

In contrast, the NPD report said that one in four consumers are driven by impulse when they shop. The study found top reasons for an impulse purchase:

  • saw it on promotion (80%);
  • saw it in the store and remembered it was needed (67%); and
  • looked like a good meal or snack solution (37%).

Results were not broken down by department categories, such as produce and dry grocery.

“For food and beverage manufacturers and retailers, it’s all about getting on the list,” Ann Hanson, executive director of product development and author of the report, said in a news release. “With so many purchasing decisions being made at home, where meals are being planned and shopping lists assembled, it’s important to focus on the consumer at home before they leave for the store.”

Called “Before the Store,” the report also found that one person is typically responsible for shopping and preparing meals is usually a woman. NPD reports four out of five consumers eat dinner at home, and most of those shoppers plan meals in advance.

Compiling the grocery list is a family affair, according to the study, with 60% of married and family households reporting shopping list contributions from other family members.

“Among younger households, a spouse is more likely to contribute to the household shopping list when kids are not present; whereas children provide input to the shopping list in nearly 40% of family households,” according to the release.

Because some consumers wait until the last minute to decide what to eat every day, Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation, said fresh produce marketers should attempt remind shoppers about possible fruit and vegetable options as they decide.

“That’s one way they can be on some of those shopping lists, if you are reminding them before dinner,” she said.

Using social media tools such as Facebook to build the awareness of fruit and vegetable options is one way to stretch marketing dollars, she said.

Pivonka said smart phone applications may play an increasingly important role in the food shopping experience.

She said PBH provides weeklong menu planning with accompanying shopping lists on the PBH website to help consumers build those meals. Pivonka said younger moms turn to the Internet first to look for help in finding food solutions.

Produce marketers place great value on being listed in weekly food ads, which often means favorable placement in the produce department, Pivonka said.