Seven ways inflation changed grocery shopping

With grocery bills increasingly climbing over 2022, how has this affected consumers and the way they shop for produce? “Thinking back to the money-saving measures we saw during the recession in 2008, we’re already seeing a lot of those measures that typically set in at the end of that money-saving cycle. They’re already on the table,” says Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics.

Here she shares more ways consumers are trimming grocery bills.

1. They’re buying less. During the recession, consumers initially opted to buy what was on sale. “But then they realized they were buying all this stuff but tossing it out because they weren’t able to use it all,” she says. “Over time, they found they saved differently by buying less instead.”

This is also being seen in restaurant meals where consumers are increasingly focused on main entrees and skipping other parts of the meal such as an appetizer or dessert.

2. They’re switching stores. “Between 15-20 percent of people have moved to value stores--Aldi, Lidl, Save A Lot. But for others, they’re also going to Costco or Sam’s Club where you buy more but get a bigger discount,” says Roerink, adding that Walmart is another popular choice. Consumers are also opting for longer-term commitments to these retailers. Costco for instance has seen a rise in memberships purchased while Walmart reported a strong second quarter.

3. They’re taking multiple trips. Roerink notes there’s an interplay between Aldi and Walmart where shoppers start with Aldi. And for the groceries they can’t locate, they then drive to Walmart to finish their shop for example. “We’re seeing very high gas prices but this has not deterred people to shop less. They are still saving by taking that extra trip,” she says.

4. They’re buying produce inconsistently. “It’s not a race to the bottom. There’s still opportunity for every commodity in the marketplace,” says Roerink. Shopping is proving uneven with consumers--one week they focus on potatoes, onions and other items connected with recessionary times or seen as “meal stretchers.”

“Then they also have convenience-focused items such as bagged salads or pre-diced onions,” says Roerink. “It’s not a linear way in the marketplace right now. Sometimes it’s about value and other times it’s about convenience and even other times it’s about replacing that restaurant meal.” She adds that higher-end items such as asparagus or specialty mushrooms continue to show strength with consumers as well.

5. They’re rethinking ingredients. “One strategy for all commodities is the ideal of fitting it into a main meal but also think--how else can this be used?” says Roerink. “People are done with routine meals so there is this whole idea of buying an item that they’re familiar with--so they don’t get buyer’s remorse afterward--but then think about what the new twist is to an old favorite.”

6. They’re sticking with fresh produce. Early in the pandemic, supply issues in part led to consumers turning more to canned and frozen produce. “In 2022, fresh produce has the highest share of fruit and vegetables across the entire store,” says Roerink. “Fresh is really really strong which we don’t typically see during recession. Usually, people pull back into canned goods and some back up their freezers as well. They’re still doing that but there are also tremendous supply chain issues so fresh is holding its own very well.”

7. They’re being promoted less. “Because of the supply chain disruption, it’s been very difficult to promote because you need to know what’s going to be in the warehouse. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot fewer promotions than in years before, especially on the fruit side. There, promotions had always been very very important because of that impulse factor,” says Roerink.

Promotions are now gearing back up, with a creative twist. Rather than focusing on the weekly ad, retailers are offering daily or even Happy Hour promotions.

They’re also recognizing value differently. Retailers are merchandising mushrooms with meat for example to market them as a meat extender. “Others have advertised the cost of a meal--if you buy all these items and make spaghetti at home, it’s only $2-$3/person,” says Roerink.

Looking ahead, it’s difficult to say how long these trends will continue given the compounding nature of the issues today from rising costs to transportation issues. “Each time we turn around, it’s something new,” says Roerink. “None of those issues seem to be resolving anytime soon. It looks like until at least the end of the year we’re dealing with these circumstances.”

For more information:
Anne-Marie Roerink
210 Analytics LLC
Tel: +1 (210) 651-2719  

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