July 17, 2024

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US shoppers tighten their belts in a most unlikely place: the grocery store

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From the bakery aisle to the dairy case, and the meat counter to the ice cream freezer, surging inflation for groceries has brought about an unexpected reality: Americans are buying less food at the store.

Shoppers have put billions fewer items in their grocery carts in the past few years compared with pre-pandemic levels, resorting instead to a combination of online purchases, bulk buying — and simply consuming less, especially in lower-income households. They are doing so in response to prices that have jumped for food, but also other essentials such as housing and insurance that have taken a bite out of their wallets.

Producers of consumer packaged goods were able to boost revenue by raising prices during the run of high inflation in recent years. But now, even as prices have moderated, retailers and producers are rushing to reinvigorate sales volumes with markdowns and promotions.

“Increased prices mean smaller basket sizes, and more consumers seeking to eliminate products they deem non-essential,” research firm NielsenIQ said in a recent analysis of sales of perishable goods. 

Customers were well aware of food inflation at a Key Foods grocery in Brooklyn, New York, visited by the Financial Times this week. Shelves of products, including tomato sauce, pasta and frozen shrimp, bore labels advertising price deals. 

“It’s more expensive than it used to be,” said Mezjine Dorvil, a shopper at the store.

The US discards as much as 40 per cent of its food supply each year, more than any other country, according to Feeding America, a nationwide food bank network. The purchase of fewer items — two bags of tortilla chips instead of three, one pint of ice cream instead of two — could modestly reduce that waste.

Adjusted for inflation, Americans on average spent 3.1 per cent less on food at home in 2023 than in 2022, according to…

2024-06-22 05:00:43

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