Consumers still skimping on food spend

By Nick Hughes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Late-2000s recession Mintel

Consumers are continuing to trim the cost of their food bill despite the first signs of recovery in world economies.

Eight in 10 Americans say they’re cooking at home more now than at the start of the year while more than half (52 percent) admit to spending less at restaurants this year compared to last, according to a new report from Mintel.

The trend to economize is not just a US phenomenon. Some 54 percent of British consumers are buying more food on special offer, while more than a third (36 percent) are trading down to budget private label brands.

Paradoxically, however, while shoppers are trading down from high cost items, low cost luxury items such as chocolate and perfume continue to perform well because of their relative affordability.

Excess is out

Consumers are also increasingly looking to take control of their own finances with a Mintel survey of mass affluent adults showing that two in five say they intend to permanently spend less and decrease their reliance on credit cards.

“We see new values taking hold as people adapt to today’s tighter economy,”​ said Harry Foster, global analyst at Mintel. “Conservative and pragmatic are in; excess is out. Consumers feel pessimistic about the future so they’re taking cautious steps to ensure their safety and happiness now.”

Mintel’s review of its five global consumer trends for 2009 suggests that trust has become of paramount concern to consumers in 2009. While banks and government officials take the majority of the rap for the global recession, food companies face their own issues of trust with six in 10 Americans saying they worry about food safety.

Simplicity is another trend that has played out, according to Mintel. More than two thirds of Americans surveyed said they have been simplifying their lives over the past six months while nearly nine in ten think there is “too much emphasis on material things in our society”.


Manufacturers have reacted to the demand for greater transparency by launching more products that meet people’s desire for clear functionality, clean ingredient labels and simple packaging. Restaurants have also cottoned onto the trend by offering all-inclusive meal deals so people know exactly what they’re getting for their money.

Despite their continued economizing, Mintel does hint at an upturn in consumer confidence moving into the second half of the year.

“The first half of the year was especially challenging, but with tentative, recent green shoots of recovery, we expect people’s attitudes to brighten considerably in coming months,”​ said Foster. “Consumers have a resilient ability to stay positive amid tough circumstances.”

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