Consumer Eating Habits

March 23, 2010

With unemployment persisting and consumer confidence down, families have sought shelter in their own homes.

The economy is affecting consumer eating habits, according to research conducted by the N.G.A. and SupermarketGuru, and underwritten by ConAgra Foods. The research found that the overwhelming majority of consumers (89%) are eating most of their meals at home.

With unemployment persisting and consumer confidence down, families have sought shelter in their own homes. To save money, par frills, buy healthier and cook smarter, consumers are making fewer trips to the store and looking for competitive prices and emphasis on value.

More than three-quarters of consumers are exercising efficiency by combining leftovers into new meals – 57% do this one to two times per week. Meanwhile, fewer than five percent of consumers are dining out multiple times a week – a slowdown felt across all income tiers. Thirty-three percent dine out less than once a month. Four percent never dine out. 

Even seemingly cheaper, fast food establishments are taking a hit. Compared with just a year ago, the percentage of consumers ‘never’ visiting a fast food joint jumped by four points to 22%. Overall, 6 out of 10 consumers are avoiding fast food operations this year. 

Despite economic concerns, consumers are increasingly interested in organic and locally grown foods, regardless of cost for now. One-third (33%) of consumers eat locally grown foods regularly – up two percentage points from 2009. The number of real enthusiasts who consume organics multiple times per day is also up three percentage points from last year to 11%. Twenty-three percent of survey respondents describe themselves as regular, moderate eaters of organics. 

So what does this all mean for retailers? The consumer shift toward more home eating is growing and not likely to change any time soon. Options like prepared meals and pre-cleaned and cut fresh items can present consumers with value-priced and convenient alternatives to expensive eating-out restaurants. 

Also, with 46% of consumers looking for more savings at their local stores and 30% seeking more variety, choice and assortment, this is a great opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves, step up to the plate, and delve deeper to meet the needs of an ever-changing population. The time is now, says The Lempert Report, to create a diverse, healthy and value-driven environment we can all be proud of.

The 2010 Consumer Panel Survey detailed the purchase influences, eating habits and nutritional concerns of 2,438 consumers between November 2009 and January 2010.