July 15, 2024

Consumers notice uptick in food prices

Consumer Food Insights Report update

A chart from Purdue University shows changes in American perceptions of food prices versus actual changes.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — More than 80% of consumers perceive that food prices have increased a little or a lot over the last 12 months, according to the May 2024 Consumer Food Insights Report from Purdue University.

Joe Balagtas, director of the Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability at Purdue, said they also asked consumers to rank what they value most when grocery shopping: taste, affordability, nutrition, availability, environmental impact and social responsibility.

“Taste and affordability were the clear winners, with environmental impact and social responsibility listed as the lowest priority,” he said.

There are some generational differences, with baby boomers valuing affordability and taste and younger generations caring more about environmental impact and social responsibility.

The survey also asked consumers what their experience has been with food price inflation compared to price inflation in other categories, such as utilities and housing.

Balagtas said that more than half of consumers perceived food prices as having risen higher than any other category.

This is the opposite of what is indicated in information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which suggest that utilities, housing and insurance have all risen faster than the prices of food.

One reason consumers feel the weight of rising food prices may be due to the frequency in which they buy food.

“For many of us, it might be multiple times a week that we’re at the grocery store or out to eat,” Balagtas said. “Every time we go out to eat or purchase groceries, we see the bill, right? Whereas housing, insurance, utilities, we pay on a monthly basis or maybe less.”

Report takeaways:

• Environmental impact is weighted lowest of the six food values, but it scores twice as high among Gen Z compared to boomers.

• 56% of Americans report food prices as having risen the most compared to other standard household expenses in the past year.

• The most common food shopping adaptations to food inflation are seeking out sales and discounts, switching to cheaper and generic brands and buying fewer nonessentials.

• Boomer consumers are least likely to have changed food shopping behaviors in response to higher prices.

• 37% of Gen Z and millennials report drawing from savings or going into debt to finance their food purchases.

• Food insecurity remains highest among Gen Z consumers at 29% relative to millennials at 15%, Gen X at 13% and boomers at 5%.

• CPI food inflation remained steady at a year-over-year rate of 2.2% for the third month in a row.

Read the complete report at https://tinyurl.com/mr4tkvj3.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor