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FMI: Consumers respond to high prices by seeking deals

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ARLINGTON, VA — Shopping around to find bargains is a more popular way to cope with inflation than buying fewer items, according to a new survey of U.S. grocery shoppers conducted for FMI — the Food Industry Association.

Among shoppers concerned about rising food prices, only 32% reported buying fewer items as a strategy in February, down from 41% in October. Instead, shoppers continue to look for deals across multiple channels – supermarkets, mass retailers, club stores and online – to mitigate the impact of higher food prices on their budgets.

“Our national survey reveals persistent consumer concern about food and beverage prices, as the weekly spend for groceries increased in late 2022 and early in 2023,” FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin said. “To address higher prices, shoppers are visiting more stores and seeking deals to stretch their dollars but are now less likely to cut back on the number of items purchased compared to six months or a year ago. This is an opportunity for our industry to continue connecting with shoppers on food-inflation-mitigating solutions.”

Food price concerns cut across shopper demographics, the survey conducted by The Hartman Group found. But Boomers are more worried about rising food prices than any other group, with 80% showing concern in February 2023 versus 69% in October 2022. Millennials polled close behind with 76% saying they are concerned, 5% more than one year ago. Such concerns about food costs coincide with an increase in spending in this inflationary environment. In February, on average, consumers spent $164 per week on groceries, up from $148 in both October and February of 2022.

FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends survey also revealed that:

  • 68% of shoppers report spending more on groceries than one year ago; 7% say they spend less.
  • Households with children reported the greatest increase in grocery spending year over year.
  • 55% of those polled are concerned with rising prices at restaurants, up from 50% in October.

Overall, shoppers report fewer using fewer channels (including retail supermarkets, club stores, mass retailers, and online shopping) but having more stores in their rotation. That suggests increased competition for shoppers’ dollars within channels, according to the study, which found that shoppers in February visited 5.2 different stores on average, up from 4.9 in February 2022. Meanwhile, shoppers used 3.6 different channels per month, down from 4.0 in February 2022. Meanwhile online shoppers have reduced the number of channels they shop. The survey found that supermarkets and club channels have lost some of their online shoppers, while mass retailers have not.