What’s left of this recession still has effects

9 Aug

The recession is making its impact throughout many industries, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends2009 report.  Consumers are changing what they buy, how they shop and even where they shop.  The new FMI report outlines three major shopping trends related to the economy: 

  • Saving money on eating out:  55% of shoppers now spend less money on dining out than they did one year ago.  People are eating out less (69%) or eating out in less expensive places (50%).   Consumers also believe they’re doing something good for their family when they eat at home; 92% believe that home-cooked meals are much healthier than the food they eat when dining out. 

Price has become shoppers’ primary means of comparison.  While appearance, nutrition and brand are key features, 76% always check the price when purchasing an item for the first time.  Beyond the first-time purchase, price is now the number one factor in selecting their primary store.  The report concludes than many of these changes appear to be quite durable and not likely to be abandoned quickly after the economy improves.

One recessionary trend that Elizabeth Sloan identifies in Food Technology is the “pleasure principle.”  As people cut back on dining out, she writes, they’ll be looking for additional excitement in the foods they eat at home.  She says that despite a tough economy, consumers have demonstrated their willingness to splurge on indulgent treats, beverages that ensure enjoyable “me time,” and snack foods that provide a unique, emotional, flavorful and fun experience.

Ice cream and chocolate are tied as the top treats that people (55%) are willing to pay a premium; these categories are followed by cookies (37%), frozen novelties (31%) and coffee (28%).  Snacking frequency has rebounded and indulgent snacking has gained momentum, with 47% of consumers snacking on what tastes good rather than what’s healthy.  The snacking trend includes foods that bring the restaurant experience home, “minis” (snack-sized versions of favorite indulgent treats), and extreme/unique flavors, such as Kettle Brand Chips that range from Cheddar Beer to Island Jerk.

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