Samplefest® Preview: Shoppers Change Behaviors as Prices Rise and Pandemic Persists
By Al Heller, Contributing Editor, SupermarketGuru.com
This article highlights information in the upcoming Meeting the Needs of Price-Conscious Shoppers Samplefest® box. Retail dietitian members of RDBA must be registered for the Virtual Experience by Monday, March 7 to receive Samplefest®. Click here to register.
Chief household food shoppers pummeled by inflation and the pandemic have reacted by shifting more of their budgets towards healthier rather than indulgent choices. They’re spending far more on produce, meat and frozen foods than in summer 2020, well beyond what inflationary hikes account for, reported RDBA’s 2022 Samplefest® presentation, “Meeting the Needs of Price-Conscious Shoppers.”
NielsenIQ Homescan panel data shared with RDBA (all outlets for the 52-week period ended July 3, 2021) showed that:
- The average U.S. consumer spent 14.3% more on produce, when the average purchase price per unit rose 5.9%.
- The average U.S. consumer spent 6.7% more on meat, when the average purchase price per unit rose 5.4%,
- The average U.S. consumer spent 9.1% more on frozen items, when the average purchase price per unit rose 4.1%.
- African-Americans made the most extreme shifts toward healthier purchase of all ethnic groups, spending 19.1% more on produce and 12.3% more on frozen foods.
Even though the average price hikes in meat approximated those of fruits and vegetables, the spending increase on meat isn’t as dramatic as on produce; this is likely because people are trading down to less-costly cuts of meat and buying alternative proteins instead.
Consumers flock to frozen foods at such high rates because they can stock up when items are on sale and conveniently store them for later use.
Spending increases on sweet and salty snacks were relatively closer to the inflationary hikes. The average U.S. consumer spent 6.1% more on sweet snacks when the average purchase price per unit was up 4.0%, and spent 8.8% more on salty snacks when the average purchase price per unit was up 5.0%, the NielsenIQ data showed.
Across high and low income tiers, 50% of respondents to Michigan State University’s 2021 Food Literacy and Engagement Poll said the pandemic has changed the way they buy and store food:
- 51% now seek food with a long shelf life
- 50% store more food at home
- 48% take fewer trips to the grocery store
The insights retail dietitians share to help shoppers acquire their best nutrition value for the dollar is pivotal to reducing dire circumstances faced by the most stressed U.S. households. A USDA survey posted on The Conversation, October 26, 2021 found that among very low food security households, 97.9% were “worried food would run out”; 95.5% said “food bought did not last”; 94.7% said they “could not afford balanced meals”; and 96.1% said they “cut the size of a meal or skipped a meal.”
“Retailers and manufacturers have an increasingly critical role to play in combatting food insecurity, and consumers are shopping with an ‘if it’s good for we, it’s good for me’ mindset as they look to support social causes through their purchases,” NielsenIQ’s Total Wellness Industry Leader Sherry Frey told RDBA.