CHICAGO — Consumers will remain conservative in 2014 despite indications of an economic rebound, according to a MarketPulse survey from IRI, a Chicago research firm. The survey measures shoppers’ behaviors and attitudes at the end of each quarter.

Shopper sentiment dropped in the fourth quarter of 2013 after hitting a two-year high during the third quarter. The debt ceiling crisis, the rollout of health care reform and the reduction of food-stamp benefits have shaken consumer confidence, especially among Millennials, whose shopper sentiment has remained relatively lower since the economic downturn began, IRI said.

“The economy is slowly returning to a healthier state, but the road has been longer and harder than anyone expected, and it has been littered with obstacles,” said Susan Viamari, editor of Thought Leadership, IRI. “As a result, consumers are holding strong to the strategies that saw them through the worst of the downturn.”

According to the survey, 83 percent of consumers reported having difficulty affording their regular groceries. Additionally, 39 percent felt their financial picture was worse than a year ago, while 43 percent said their financial situation remained unchanged from the prior year. To save money, nearly half of consumers are cooking from scratch and using fewer convenience items. When making purchases, 90 percent are eliminating unnecessary items, and 67 percent are bringing shopping lists to the store.
“Our results clearly indicate that 2014 will be yet another challenging year for consumers and CPG marketers alike,” Viamari said. “But both parties have demonstrated resilience and the ability to adapt quickly to challenges and opportunities. CPG marketers must hold on to that resilience this year and continue to provide shoppers with exciting products that make life easier and more affordable with a targeted value proposition.”