Consumers remain thrifty as food costs rise

by Bryan Salvage
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CHICAGO ─ Over the past few years, many US consumers became adept at stretching their dollars. Now facing rising food costs, consumers are again relying on those cost-savings measures they’ve used in recent years, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company.

“During the recession, consumers adopted thriftier spending behaviors and as time went on they became comfortable with making concessions and getting by with less,” said Dori Hickey, director of product development at NPD and author of What’s Next on the Road to Recovery. “At the height of the recession, consumers said they used coupons more, were stocking up on sale items, buying more private labels, shopping at discount stores more, among other money-saving strategies. With food prices rising and consumers experienced at getting the most from their food dollars, consumers are going to be increasing these types of behaviors once again.”

More consumers, 21.9%, plan to increase their spending on groceries over the upcoming months, which is up from 16.6% in February, according to NPD’s The Economy Tracker, which monitors consumer sentiment about the economy and spending. In March, 40.1% of consumers voiced plans to spend more on gasoline over the upcoming months, up from 27.6% in February.

Value and price are once again top-of-mind with the majority of consumers, with increased spending on commodities like groceries and gasoline. Seventy-four percent of consumers strongly agreed that they expect coupons and special deals will be much more important in deciding what to buy, according to The Economy Tracker. And 67% said they would shop less in general while 53% indicated they would be buying in bulk.

“The post-recession consumer hasn’t yet returned to financially stable ground and is now dealing with rising food and gas prices,” says Mark East, president of the food and beverage unit at NPD.
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