- Grocery inflation is at its highest since 1979, prompting shoppers to change their ways.
- More than half of consumers say they are buying sales and using coupons.
- Shoppers are also cutting back on non-essentials like more expensive cuts of meat.
Inflation is changing everything about how Americans shop, from the stores they visit to the brands they buy from and how often they shop.
Roughly 95% of American households said they are making changes to their shopping habits to explain the price hike, according to a Numerator survey of more than 10,000 consumers in April. About half of respondents said that in recent months they had stocked up on essentials when they were on sale and looked for coupons and discounts. In both cases, an even higher percentage of consumers said they plan to adopt these behaviors in the coming months.
Here are other ways Americans are changing their shopping habits.
Shopping lists are shrinking
Supermarket prices are skyrocketing at the fastest pace since 1979, and shoppers are feeling it. The month-on-month rate of price increase has increased since early 2022, and prices for home food — a category that includes groceries — rose 11.9% in May year-over-year, according to the Consumer Price Index. . Milk and dairy prices rose at even faster rates, with meat and fish up 14.2% and eggs 32.2% from May 2021.
As a result, more than a third of Numerator survey respondents said they are buying fewer items than in the past and 54% said they plan to cut spending, citing non-essential food as one of the top categories they intend to cut.
While families have different definitions of “non-essential,” reductions often translate to switching from more expensive meats like beef to cheaper options like chicken and buying a half gallon of milk instead of a full gallon.
According to a May survey by the Food Industry Association (FMI), 21% of consumers are buying less meat and 14% are buying less. Some shoppers are switching from those more expensive purchases to more frozen and canned meat, they told the IMF, with a higher percentage of shoppers with household incomes below $40,000 making the switch.
Membership clubs and discount stores are benefiting
Rising prices are driving customers to change where they shop. Discount supermarket chain Aldi is seeing “significant spikes” in traffic, the company’s vice president of national shopping Scott Patton told Insider. The chain added 2.5 million new customers in May, with the biggest increases among middle- and upper-income households, Patton said. Placer.ai’s independent analysis of foot traffic confirmed this growth.
Aldi’s fastest growing categories reflect the categories with the highest inflation rates, meaning customers are flocking to the economy store to buy the more expensive items. Aldi had lower prices than Walmart in most grocery categories, and in a recent Insider price comparison, the discount chain won on produce, staples and eggs. The biggest difference was in meat, with potential savings of up to 60 cents a pound on some items.
Meanwhile, Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s – which operate on membership models where customers must pay an annual fee to shop in-store – are also having an exceptionally good year. They are benefiting from the same trends that drive shoppers to discount stores like Aldi. And while membership clubs aren’t as popular as Aldi, 46% of shoppers told Numerator they’re taking less and more trips, which fits the mass-buying nature of these stores. and 21% of supermarket shoppers told the IMF that they have switched to buying in bulk.
Private label brands see an increase
Many grocery shoppers are opting for the cheapest brands on the shelves – 31% of consumers told the Numerator they are switching to cheaper brands – which are usually private labels sold by supermarkets.
This is also showing up in supermarket data. Aldi told Insider that 90% of its offerings are private label. Walmart noted increased penetration of its private labels on an earnings call in May. The deli, meat and dairy sections are seeing the biggest movement in private label, John Furner, CEO and president of Walmart US, told investors on the conference call.
And while Costco’s Kirkland private-label brand is already huge, accounting for about a quarter of membership club revenue, the company said private-label sales picked up a little on a recent earnings call.