Inflation Redefines Holiday Food Shopping and Gift Giving

GLADSTONE, Mo. – Tues., Nov. 15, 2022 – Inflation is redefining holiday shopping as consumers make adjustments to their budgets, new research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) shows.

“They are looking for opportunities to maintain the comfort and nostalgia of the holidays, while being mindful of the impact on their pocketbook at the same time,” said Mickie French, CFI executive director.

Consumers especially want high-quality items for a lower price, according to the latest CFI Illuminate Digital Cultural Insights™ research, which was conducted in partnership with FMI – The Food Industry Association. Illuminate leverages digital ethnography that analyzes millions of online conversations in real time.

In addition, consumers are reevaluating the equation of time versus money as they try to determine how much their time really is worth in an inflationary environment. As a result, they are weighing which shopping conveniences are worth the cost during the busy holiday season.

One way is by considering if online grocery shopping is worth the delivery fee. For families with young children and those working more than one job, delivery could help them save time and gas by eliminating a trip to the store.

“According to FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends: Holiday Shopping report, 45% of consumers are most concerned about rising meal prices as compared to other holiday expenses,“ said Steve Markenson, director of research and insights for FMI—The Food Industry Association. “Fortunately, most shoppers indicate they are in control of their grocery budgets, with 71% of consumers making some adjustment to their holiday meal shopping to adapt to the changing economic landscape. This indicates that shoppers are still able to find budget-friendly items to meet their needs.”

Shopping patterns were significantly disrupted by the pandemic and now higher food prices are causing more changes for food retailers and shoppers, he said.

As they prepare for the holidays, shoppers are looking for ways to save money on groceries by choosing discount retailers and store brands. They are also investigating other options such as buying in bulk and using coupons.

“The insights provide valuable information for the food system to understand and anticipate consumers’ needs as the food system works to ensure everyone has access to food that meets their needs and budgets,” said French.

The research also shows that Inflation is impacting give-giving, causing shoppers to redefine “luxury.”

“They are prioritizing the emotional feelings of luxury, such as comfort and wellness, instead of high price tags,” she said.

That means they are making room in their holiday budgets for small, affordable luxuries that stand out from their everyday purchases for themselves and for others. They are also opting toward giving practical gifts this year.

Inflation and higher prices are affecting consumers at all levels, French said.  The research showed that low-income to lower-middle-class consumers and those with children are most likely to be talking about this topic.

The full report is available to CFI members. Additional information on CFI’s digital ethnography research can be found at foodintegrity.org.

The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit organization that helps today’s food system earn consumer trust. Our members and project partners are committed to providing accurate information and working together to address important issues in food and agriculture. The Center does not lobby or advocate for individual companies or brands. For more information, visit www.foodintegrity.org.

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