Is A Revolution Brewing In the Checkout Line?

by , Oct 25, 2011, 4:12 PM
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Despite rising food prices, consumers (at least for the most part) have made relatively few changes to their grocery shopping and eating habits. But a new study indicates they might rethink core purchases, including basics like milk and cereal, soon:  The annual Accenture Pricing Shopping Survey reports that while more than one-third have yet to change their food-buying behavior, 81% of shoppers are fretting about food prices rising even higher this year.

While only 30% have switched a portion of their shopping from supermarkets and convenience stores to discount stores and warehouse clubs, and even fewer (just 20%) say they have changed the products they purchase, a whopping 70% of middle-income shoppers say they will make bigger changes if prices rise again. Specifically, 79% say they intend to switch to generic products if prices rise by 10% or more. And if prices rise by 20%, they say they will simply give them up.

“We found quite a few people, especially younger people and those at the lower end of the income spectrum, weren’t just making food tradeoffs,“ Ray Florio, pricing strategy manager for Accenture, tells Marketing Daily. “They were shuffling around the total wallet.” For example, many said that if gas prices were to decline, they would reallocate those funds to their food budget.

Coupons are one way of coping -- and 40% of the survey, which included 1,000 adults, says they use them. And 37% belong to a daily deal site, to get savings that way. Some behaviors have already changed more radically: 51% say they have been eating out less often.

“If prices rise another 10%, we’ll begin to see bigger changes,” he says. “They won’t stop buying things like milk or cereal, but they will change how they buy them. They’ll switch to store brands, for example. And marketers will change too, as they already have with laundry sold in concentrate form. We expect to see more cereal sold in bags, for example, instead of cardboard boxes, as a way to keep prices low. ”

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