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Rising grocery prices replace Covid-19 woes heading into the holidays

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The cloud of Covid-19 on holiday shoppers is lifting—only to be replaced by the showers of inflation, according to findings of a new shopper survey.

Holiday shoppers are less worried about Covid-19, but more worried about rising food prices, per a new survey by the Food Industry Association (FMI).

FMI’s Grocery Shopper Trends report is a monthly shopper survey that started in March 2020 and was intended to assess shoppers’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. The most recent survey, conducted in October, also highlights consumers’ attitudes around the upcoming holiday season.

The report found concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic have diminished in recent months. In August, almost half (48%) of shoppers were very or extremely concerned about Covid-19. In October, that number dropped to about one-third (38%). More consumers also reported feeling safe doing such activities as shopping at a grocery store and eating at a restaurant, up 8% and 6%, respectively, compared to August.

In contrast, concerns over rising costs at the grocery store remain high heading into the holiday season.

The majority of shoppers (70%) reported they’re very or extremely concerned about rising food prices. Plus, half of shoppers (50%) reported they’ve noticed price increases across most food categories, including fresh meats, fresh produce, refrigerated dairy food and milk. These concerns are higher among households with children, of which 73% reported they’re concerned about increasing food costs.

What’s more, 65% of shoppers reported they worry about food more now than they did a year ago and more than half (57%) worry about how much they spend on groceries. About one-third worry about having enough to eat.

About two-thirds of shoppers (62%) said the amount of money they spend on groceries each week has increased over the past year. On average, shoppers spent about $148 a week on groceries in October, up from $136 in August but down from the peak of $161 during the pandemic.

How high prices are impacting shoppers’ holiday plans

Not surprisingly, consumers are anticipating the impact of high prices on seasonal celebrations. Almost half (45%) are worried about how high prices will affect holiday meals and celebrations.

About one-third of shoppers reported they plan to do the “bare minimum” for their Halloween (34%) and New Year’s (34%) celebrations, up 3% and 5% compared to last year, respectively. Interestingly, while about 28% of shoppers who celebrate Halloween said they planned to spend more on candy, almost the same amount (27%) said they planned to buy less.

Only about a fifth of shoppers reported they plan to do the bare minimum for their Thanksgiving (22%) and Christmas (20%) celebrations, up 1% for each holiday compared to last year, respectively.

In contrast, those who plan to celebrate the holidays to the fullest extent decreased compared to last year: 31% for Thanksgiving (-4%), 39% for Christmas (-7%) and 21% for New Year’s (-8%).

To address concerns about rising holiday costs, most consumers plan to seek out deals and sales (28%). Other popular cost-saving plans include buying more private label brands (21%), preparing more food at home (20%), making fewer dishes (17%) and substituting for more affordable options (17%).

Rachel Adams joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products INSIDER, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. Adams left Informa Markets in 2019.

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