As food companies and restaurant operators make hard fought attempts to keep from raising prices, U.S. consumers are bracing to pay more for their food in 2011, according to food market research by The NPD Group.

“With food inflation accelerating in the last months of 2010 and government forecasts show it continuing into at least the first half of 2011, Americans will be making well-thought out choices this year on how they will feed themselves,” said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at NPD and author of Eating Patterns in America. “It amounts to ‘relative food inflation.’ They have so much to spend on food and they will carefully pick-and-choose how they spend it. Looking for more coupons and discounts, buying more private label foods, eating more leftovers, and generally getting the most bang for their buck.”

According to NPD’s in-home research, National Eating Trends, and foodservice market research, CREST:

  • 72 percent of meals are prepared in homes;
  • 18 percent are obtained from foodservice outlets;
  • 8 percent are skipped; and
  • 2 percent are from unknown sources.

Throughout the past two years, U.S. consumers pulled back on their use of restaurants, and the industry lost 2.4 billion visits between November 2008 through November 2010, from 61.5 billion visits to 59.1 billion visits. Food deflation during this period gave supermarkets the edge in
terms of consumer food spending. 
 

“Food prices so far are up less than 2 percent from the depressed year ago levels, when they were dropping by 2 percent. Supermarket prices are still below the levels of 2008,” Balzer said. “This is really a story about the upheaval created by the 2008 food price increases. We have yet to see how it will play out this time.”

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