How is the cost of living crisis affecting the health and sustainability of shopping baskets?

In the first six months of 2022, global food prices rose 12%, according to UN data. Compared to pre-pandemic figures, food prices increased by 65%.

The combined effects of high energy prices, drought and geopolitics have created something of a perfect storm. Analysts at Morgan Stanley Research forecast that food prices will peak this year.

Unable to absorb rising ingredients and production costs, brands have been forced to pass on at least some of it to consumers. And buyers are taking notice. Some foods that have experienced the greatest increase in price on the shelves are potatoes, olive oil, flour and other cereals.

How do higher prices affect the food that ends up in shoppers’ baskets? According to new research, consumers are struggling to buy food that is as healthy and sustainable as they would like.

Brits struggling to eat healthy

More and more customers are looking for healthier and more sustainable food and beverages.

According to NielsenIQ focused on consumer research, 54% of UK consumers pay attention to food labelling/nutritional values ​​when shopping for groceries. Sugar (45%), fat (41%) and salt (31%) content have the biggest impact on purchase decisions, he noted in a 2022 survey.

However, UK shoppers face the challenge of looking after their personal health while managing rising food and living expenses as a result of current inflation in the country, NielsenIQ noted.

At last count, inflation in the UK had risen to 9.4%.

Data for June 2022 suggested that the value of total salad sales had fallen -4.8% compared to the same period last year. Total fruit sales also fell 3.9%.

fruits and vegetables dcdr

Exotic fruits, such as grapes, melons, pineapples and mangoes, are the most likely to be discarded from shopping baskets, according to new data. GettyImages/dcdr

Other research suggests almost half (44%) of Britons are struggling to eat healthily due to the cost of living crisis.

A survey conducted by Censuswide last month on behalf of plant-based analogue brand Meatless Farm indicated that two-thirds of UK consumers have reduced their consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables this year.

Nearly half (44%) are concerned about how they will be able to afford to eat healthily, and shoppers are being forced to lower their standards: two in five are switching to cheaper quality meat (40%), frozen ( 45%) and canned (39%). ) food.

About a third said they fill up on pasta and rice instead of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The survey revealed that exotic fruits, such as grapes, melons, pineapples and mangoes, are the most likely to be discarded from shopping baskets, with one in five (20%) giving up avocados.

“Reducing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and replacing them with cheaper quality carbohydrates and meat is not a viable option for the future of our nation’s health, and the findings of this study are concerning for both our nation’s nutrition and our nation’s health.” environment”. said Meatless Farm founder Morten Toft Bech.

Taste for ‘green’, but can we afford it?

Recent research also suggests that while consumers want to buy environmentally friendly food and beverages, the cost-of-living crisis may be an obstacle.

According to NielsenIQ, 60% of UK households say it’s important to buy sustainably produced groceries to help save the environment.

The top three concerns about grocery products, according to the consumer research firm, are food waste (45%), buying local/UK (36%) and minimal/no packaging (26%).

“However, although consumers expressed a willingness to switch to sustainable product packaging, purchasing behavior did not always reflect this willingness,” NielsenIQ noted.

While overall total salad sales were down compared to this time last year, value sales of bagged salads were up 2.7%. Sales of prepared fruit also grew by +15.6%.

Organic RossHelen

Consumers want to buy ‘green’, but can they afford it? GettyImages/RossHelen

In November last year, 2.7 million households in the UK said they were replacing meat-based meals with vegan or vegetarian alternatives, with 40% saying it was better for their health and 31% saying it was better for the planet.

However, this could prove challenging, Nielsen IQ suggested, given that meat-alternative ground beef is 26% more expensive per kg than beef ground beef. An average spending on a meat basket costs £40.99, while an average meat basket for meat alternatives is £43.60.

“With 49% of households focusing on value for money when buying new foods and drinks, UK shoppers are in a bind as they struggle to balance tight budgets with their values ​​of health and sustainability.” said Katrina Bishop, UK Thought Leadership Activation Manager at NielsenIQ.

“We may see a slight shift in shoppers’ priorities as they look for alternative ways to balance this, for example cutting back on groceries and meat spending may result in cooking with fresh vegetables rather than looking for meat alternatives. ”.

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