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Study: Consumers concerned about food prices

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CHICAGO — Nearly half (49%) of U.S. consumers say their personal finances are poor, according to the latest dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey. That’s a 20% increase from July. And a majority of consumers (68%) said the economy as a whole isn’t good either, and 91% said they are closely watching store prices.

The survey also found that just 50% of consumers in the U.S. and 48% globally believe stores are doing a good job regarding the virus. Confidence in government responses is even lower — 77% of Americans surveyed disapprove of the government’s actions during the pandemic, compared to 67% of consumers globally.

“Since the pandemic first hit, we have been analyzing and studying consumer reactions to the virus, how it impacted their shopping behavior, and how they in turn reacted to retailers’ actions to combat the virus,” dunnhumby North America president Jose Gomes said. “Seven months after shutdowns, we are now seeing a major pivot with consumer focus turning away from the virus itself to now being more concerned with increasing food prices while the economy and their personal finances are deteriorating. Retailers need to take note that most shoppers right now are on the hunt for more value by shopping at stores with regularly low prices, while also seeking discounts and promotions.”

Survey respondents’ concerns with higher food prices align with the latest Consumer Price Index for Food, which reported that August food prices were 4.1% higher than in 2019. In addition, Food-at-home (FaH) prices have increased 3.3% and food-away-from-home (FAFH) prices have increased 2.6% in the same timeframe.

Key findings from the study:

  • Consumer shopping behaviors are again shifting as consumer worry decreases. The number of weekly shopping trips is increasing with an average of 5.4 in Wave 5, compared to 3.8 in March. Fifty percent of respondents continue to shop fewer stores, 25% continue to spend more each trip and 41% are getting carryout. However, while trips to the store are increasing, consumers still expect retailers to put specific safety precautions, like social distance markers, in place.
  • Online shopping is now firmly rooted in 30% of all U.S. shopping trips. With online shopping reaching its tipping point during the pandemic, all signs point to U.S. consumers continuing to use this channel for 30% of all their trips now and in the future. Globally, online shopping accounts for 28% of all trips.
  • Customers generally support retailers COVID-related actions, except for rising prices. Wave 5 of the study found that 37% of shoppers noticed the rise of prices on virus-related items, but 72% of those reported the increase in prices was unnecessary.
  • Customers are fighting price hikes by shopping at stores where prices are low and searching for deals. As a result of rising prices, 58% of those surveyed are now shopping where regular prices are low, 43% are buying the lowest priced products, 36% are using coupons, 34% are searching online for best sales, and 21% are buying more private brand items.
  • Walmart dominates customers’ minds when it comes to value. Thirty-four percent of respondents rated Walmart first, with Aldi (12%) and Kroger (9%) coming in at second and third, respectively.

For this study, dunnhumby surveyed more than 32,000 respondents online in 22 countries: Asia (Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand), Europe (Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and United Kingdom), South America (Brazil), and North America (Canada, Mexico, and United States). The online interviews were conducted for Wave one from March 29 – April 1, Wave two from April 11 – 14, Wave three from May 27-31. Due to the rapidly unfolding crisis in North America, dunnhumby conducted another set of online interviews for Wave four from July 9 -July 12 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico only. Wave 5 was conducted from August 28 – September 3. Approximately 400 individuals were interviewed in each country for each Wave of the study, and respondents were roughly 60% female and 40% male.


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