As everyday commodity prices rocket, shoppers are finding ways to tick off their weekly shopping list ever more economically
Shoppers need to reduce their household expenditure and are now looking closely at where savings can be made on food.
First the bad news. The global changes in supply and demand for basic foodstuffs that are pushing up the cost of the weekly supermarket shop are long term and probably will not go away. They will have a profound effect on how we buy and consume food in the future. Like it or not, we are going to have to learn to live with more expensive food.
Attitudes and shopping behaviour are already changing. Here are three current examples that may be the tip of the iceberg.
When Nielsen surveyed shoppers in April, more than 50% told us that they were constantly looking for the best prices on food. Just six months ago only 35% felt this way. The proportion of shoppers aiming to save money on food has doubled from 22% to 45%. Hence the recent price-cutting messages from supermarkets.
Secondly, current Nielsen trends are showing that with the rising cost of living there is also an increased awareness of shoppers curbing unnecessary food waste. A third of us see better 'fridge management' such as less larder stocking of perishables, checking use-by dates and only buying for immediate needs as ways of saving money.
This is a positive reaction in the same vein as the trend for choosing to buy products with less packaging or with ethical provenance that has developed over the past couple of years.
Finally, those not yet strapped for cash, but who nevertheless want to spend more wisely, are putting greater trust in the big out-of-town supermarkets and are continuing with large trolley baskets to get the best deal.
But those shoppers who increasingly need to manage spend (most of us) are opting out of making very large shopping trips and are instead turning to the medium-sized baskets and shopping at different retailers to actively save money.
It seems as if shoppers are adopting more of a make-do attitude, trying to use up what they've already got in the larder and wait for the next weekly shop rather than topping up. And possibly this is also seen as a way to keep transport costs down.
So what's the good news? Well, let's call this a 'food shock'; a timely reminder that we can no longer take for granted the wide choice of safe, affordable and reliably supplied food that we have enjoyed in recent years.
And this goes beyond the painful economic reality that most households have been facing since the start of the year and meets the wider ethical and environmental concerns of shoppers that are coming from the other direction.
The first so-called 'shock', the oil shock of the 1970s, had a big impact on the mindset of the consumer. And in a similar way shoppers now need to think and act differently about food.
With 20% of the population being prepared to change their behaviour based on ethical considerations and an even greater number having to do so for economic reasons, calling what we are seeing a 'food shock' may not seem so dramatic after all.
Expect the focus on the cost of the weekly grocery shop to intensify. If ever there was a time to link this to more sustainable food and more responsible shopping, it is now, and the grocery industry should encourage it. n
Mike Watkins is head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen