These days, a trip to the grocery store can be very expensive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the food at home index rose 6.4% over the 12 months ending in November 2021 — the most significant 12-month increase since the period ending in December 2008.
All of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the period, BLS notes. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased the most — 12.8% — with the index for beef rising 20.9%. The index for dairy and related products, meanwhile, posted the smallest increase, 1.6%.
Bigger price jumps for dairy could be on the horizon, however, if Danone S.A.’s situation is any indication. According to an Oct. 19 article from Bloomberg (tinyurl.com/ycxxnf5n), the world’s largest yogurt maker (and parent company to Danone North America) “forecast that inflation in milk, packaging and transport costs could worsen next year, leading the company to shift price increases to consumers and seek more cost savings.”
There are many drivers behind the overall food price increases, EconoFact reports in a Nov. 12, 2021, article (https://tinyurl.com/bdhr5v6n). A few of them are higher agricultural commodity prices, heightened consumer demand for food at home amidst the pandemic and pandemic-spurred higher wages in the food manufacturing industry.
The buy/no-buy decision
More than once in recent months, I have said no to the purchase of an item on my grocery list that’s priced much higher than expected. And I silently wondered if many other consumers were doing the same thing.
Well, according to a new survey performed by SurveyGoo for the Ingredient Communications PR agency, they are … and they aren’t. It simply depends on the food item in question.
The survey, conducted with more than 1,000 U.S. and U.K. consumers, found that shoppers are more immune to price increases for low-cost staple goods. For example, survey respondents were least sensitive to price increases within the milk category, with respondents indicating milk could increase by an average of 65% before they would stop buying it. (Respondents were asked to select the point at which they would stop buying specific food, beverage and nutrition products due to price increases, using a scale of +5% to “I would buy this product whatever the price.”)
However, respondents indicated greater resistance to cost increases in nutrition categories, where the base product price tends to be higher. For instance, Ingredient Communications says, respondents said they would stop buying protein powder once the price had risen by an average of 17%.
Almost half of respondents (48%) said they had switched to a cheaper brand in the previous three months as a result of price increases, while more than a quarter of respondents (26%) said they had changed to a retailer’s own-brand version of the same product.
Dairy brands facing financial pressures that could force product price hikes in the near future need to take action to retain their space in shoppers’ carts.
“In such challenging market conditions, brands will need to work hard to retain consumer loyalty,” says Richard Clarke, managing director of Ingredient Communications. “An effective way to achieve this is to demonstrate added value by using high-quality ingredients that provide clear differentiation and command high levels of trust — whether that’s through proven efficacy, sustainability, co-branding or a combination of these. These values, communicated effectively, will tie a consumer to a brand more closely, mitigating the impact of price increases on purchasing behavior.”