Affordability and health drive consumer food purchases, Signal Analytics finds

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Related tags Signal Analytics coronavirus Grocery shopping

Working from home, pantry and freezer stockpiling, and having more time to cook have had a massive impact on consumer shopping and eating behaviors, highlighting a consumer desire for healthy and affordable food, new research from Signal Analytics shows.

Packaged food consumption rose 20% for the week ended June 20, compared to the same time last year, according to Credit Suisse research. At the same time, food prices have climbed for the tenth consecutive month, according to the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report​.

In its latest research, which uses an AI-powered analytics platform that tracks over 40 FCMG categories to uncover consumer and market trends, Signal Analytics​ found that price was a key factor driving consumer shopping behavior, even more than it was at the beginning of the year.

“In looking at the consumer landscape, affordability was the key benefit consumers sought; in addition to a 10% increase in consumer discussions year over year, there was a 20% jump ​[in online consumer discussions] from February to April alone,”​ said Signals Analytics.

In terms of CPG product features consumers are seeking, the most prominent feature in consumer discussions pertained to following a healthy diet (terms such as vegan, whole grain, high protein, reduced carbohydrate, and plant-based ranked highly in its data), “suggesting that consumers do not want to compromise immune health for affordability; they want their cake and they want to eat it too.”

Which brands are benefiting the most?

Brands that are resonating strongly with consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic include Kraft, Trader Joe's, and Quaker, according to Signal Analytics’ Brand Positioning Assessment which tracks online posts and mentions from external data sources.


In the case of Trader Joe’s, consumers have come to associate its products with a number of perceived benefits including affordability, time and ease of preparation, and part of a healthy diet, noted Signal Analytics. 

Big name legacy CPG brands have also experienced a resurgence in consumer interest, according to the data.

Signals Analytics identified General Mills which reported net sales of $5bn in its fourth quarter fiscal results​, up 21% compared to 2019, as a company that is hitting on consumers’ needs for affordable packaged food products while matching the health claims they're seeking.

General Mills has continued to launch new products throughout the months of the pandemic such as its Nature Valley Packed sustained energy brand made from nuts, seeds, and fruit, and its new keto-friendly yogurts with 1 gram of sugar and 15 grams of protein per serving.

However, Signal Analytics research showed that while affordability is a key factor consumers look for in new products, their needs in this area aren’t being fully met.

In looking at its Consumer Assessment model (shown below) that compares product claims versus consumer discussions, affordability ranked high in consumer discussion (x-axis) but low on the percentage of product claims mentioning this benefit.


“Affordability shows up as a bright white space opportunity for brands to capitalize on,”​ reported Signal Analytics.

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