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Consumers combat high food prices by eating at home

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Foodservice traffic dipped 3% over the summer as consumers attempted to subdue rising food costs by eating more meals at home, per new joint research from IRI and The NPD Group.

Consumers are combatting high food prices by eating more meals at home, a shift that drove a 3% dip in foodservice traffic in mid-summer, according to joint research from IRI and The NPD Group.  

The cost of meals eaten away from home has risen 7.6%, compared to a year ago, while meals eaten at home have risen a whopping 13.1%. Despite this, it still costs significantly more to eat away from home—nearly 3.5 times more than food purchased at retail stores and eaten at home, according to IRI and NPD.  

To minimize the impact of rising food costs, more consumers are opting to eat their meals at home. Sales of food purchased at retail and eaten at home are outpacing away-from-home food sales with growth of 8.7%, compared to a year ago, versus away-from-home sales growth of 6%, compared to a year ago, according to IRI’s and NPD’s research.  

Lifestyle changes are further facilitating the shift toward more in-home dining. Growth of hybrid and flexible work schedules brought on largely by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it easier for working people to eat meals at home. Food bought at retail and eaten at home accounts for 62.5% of money spent on food, while 37.5% represents foodservice spending—a trend supported by the 20 million U.S. workers who work from home—per IRI and NPD data. 

When consumers do eat out, they’re cutting costs by opting for foodservice outlets that offer more value, such as quickservice restaurants, the data showed. 

Despite the dip in foodservice traffic, David Portalatin, senior vice president and industry advisor for Food and Foodservice for The NPD Group, expects slow recovery for restaurants. “As we head into 2023, restaurant recovery will be slow and steady, as traffic begins to return to pre-pandemic levels,” he said in a press release. “Current demand suggests that culinary trends are shifting to incorporate bolder flavors inspired by global and regional influences.” 

Key to the success of foodservice venues, per Krishnakumar Davey, Ph.D., president of CPG and Retail Thought Leadership, IRI and NPD, is value and convenience. “While the pandemic and recent inflationary pressures shifted demand, restaurants and foodservice outlets offering value, convenience and at-home indulgence are top of mind for consumers and will continue to grow,” he said in the release. 

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