With August food prices increasing 11.4% year-over-year, Americans are experiencing a fundamental shift in their everyday patterns, with some even adopting an “inflation diet.” A recent survey by consumer research platform Attest took a closer look at how consumer grocery habits have changed over the past 12-months.
“The research shows that consumers are understandably trying to save where they can in reaction to inflation, especially pulling back on premium food products and alcohol,” said Jeremy King, CEO of Attest, in a press release.
“However, fundamental food behaviors are also shifting due to such rapid price rises, including a relaxing of attitudes towards eating expired food products.”
Overall, the survey revealed that anxiety is dictating the grocery list, with nearly half (47%) of Americans sticking to a strict budget when they go to the supermarket.
Other consumption shifts include:
- Skimping on food: Forty percent of respondents are buying less food due to rising costs, and that number increased to 52% for those aged 55-64.
- Decline in overall health: Forty-six percent of consumers are switching to cheaper foods – many of which are associated with lower-quality ingredients and reduced health benefits — while 22% are also buying less fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Relaxed attitudes toward expiration dates: Forty-six percent of Americans are eating foods past their expiration and ‘use-by’ dates – labels often criticized for being somewhat arbitrary – as consumers exhibit an increasing willingness to make their own judgment calls.
“This [behavior] paints a picture of a consumer that isn’t afraid to make drastic lifestyle changes to put food on the table,” said King. “For brands and retailers alike, maintaining customer loyalty in this environment will be tricky, especially as cost cutting approaches like ‘shrinkflation’ appear to be particularly divisive amongst American shoppers.”
TAKEAWAYS FOR BRANDS, RETAILERS
Amidst this shift to an “inflation diet,” discount retailers continue to gain traction.
A third of consumers (33%) have changed where they shop, with the number of shoppers visiting discounters like Aldi, Grocery Outlet, Price Rite and Save A Lot increasing 6% in the last six months.
Online food shopping is also experiencing steep decline. In January 2021, 26% of Americans shopped for groceries mostly or only online; today, that figure has dropped to 10%. Meanwhile, the number of people who shop only in-store has almost doubled, rising from 26% to 51%.
Finally, shoppers appear to be divided over ‘shrinkflation.’ While a slim majority (55%) of U.S. consumers prefer reduced product sizes over increased prices, it remains a divisive issue.