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A recent HealthFocus International (HFI) study reveals that cutting costs has expanded into higher-income groups, namely, those with annual incomes upward of $75,000. A significant source of cost-cutting is happening at the grocery store as nearly three-quarters of shoppers indicate a higher level of concern about the cost of groceries, which has resulted in their buying less overall and cutting back on nonessential food and beverage items.
This study, a follow-up from the HFI report in April 2009, “Grocery Buying in the Current Economy,” surveyed 1,000 primary grocery shoppers to explore how shoppers with income reduction (vs. unemployment or loss of income) are dealing with recent change brought on by the economy. Reduction of income is affecting one out of three shoppers and is likely the key factor in bringing cost into play as a more permanent factor in determining behavior. These most recent findings reveal a significant shift in shopper actions and attitudes.
“The extended economic uncertainty has had a very profound and deepening impact on consumer attitudes and behavior,” said Barbara Katz, president of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based HFI. “The resulting practice of shoppers using cost-cutting strategies could have a lingering impact, irrespective of whether or not economic conditions improve.”
Shopping Patterns Changing Among High-income Shoppers
Among individuals who earn more than $75,000, nearly three-quarters of this group’s food and beverage shopping patterns have been affected to a significant degree. They’re more aggressive than six months ago in their commitment to manage costs in the following categories:
—Almost half cut coupons more for grocery shopping, up from 15 percent
—Almost half spend less on entertainment, up 12 percent
—40 percent buy private label or store brands more often
While concern about the economy overall may have shifted down slightly from six months ago (80 percent vs. 90 percent), almost three-quarters of shoppers have a higher level of concern about the cost of groceries. Additionally, one-third of shoppers identify themselves as “very nervous” about the economy and are taking action to manage down expenses, including:
—Buying grocery items on sale; Over half of shoppers are now buying grocery items on sale. Shopping on sale has increased in almost all groups studied, and over half the shoppers in almost every group are buying on sale more.
—Eating out less at fast-food restaurants: Almost 60 percent of shoppers reported eating out at fast-food restaurants less often
—Eating out less at sit-down restaurants: Four out of five are eating out at sit-down restaurants less often, up 11 percent
—Cutting coupons more: Almost 60 percent claim they’re cutting coupons more, up 12 percent
—Cutting down on groceries: Over half (54 percent) are cutting down on the quantity of groceries purchased to save money, up from 42 percent
—Eating less/fewer meals: Almost a quarter (22 percent) of them are actually trying to eat less food or fewer meals, up from 11 percent
—Buying fewer nonessential items: Items that shoppers may see as “luxuries,” like convenience, dessert, snacks and candy products, are where more shoppers are cutting back. The top 10 items that shoppers attitudinally consider to be some of the most expendable to save money are:
Grocery Store Prepared Meals/Items
To obtain a copy of this study, e-mail Aaron Brost at [email protected]. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level for the sample of 1,000 is approximately +/- 3 percent.
HFI specializes in understanding consumer attitudes toward health and nutrition, and helping to apply those insights to brand development and innovation. The HealthFocus database, dating back nearly 20 years, is the largest global database available on shopper health and nutrition. The syndicated HealthFocus Trend Survey, conducted in the United States and 18 other markets, is the most in-depth, up-to-date study of its kind. A division of Irwin Broh Research, Chicago, HFI offers full-service marketing research capabilities overseen by experienced consultants with either brand marketing or nutritional science backgrounds.