According to a new study by HealthFocus International, the most significant source of cost cutting among consumers with annual incomes upwards of $75,000 is happening at the grocery  level, but restaurant dining also has been affected.
Nearly three quarters of this group's food and beverage shopping patterns have been impacted to a significant degree by the economy. They are more aggressive than six months ago in their commitment to manage costs in the following categories:
  • Almost half cut coupons more for grocery shopping, up from 15 percent
  • Almost half spend less on entertainment, up 12 percent
  • Forty percent buy private label or store brands more often
While concern about the economy overall may have shifted down slightly from six months ago (80 percent vs. 90 percent), almost three quarters of shoppers have a higher level of concern about the cost of groceries. Additionally, one-third of shoppers are "very nervous" about the economy and are taking action to manage down expenses including:
  • Buying Grocery Items on Sale -- Shopping for sale items has increased to almost half in a majority of the groups studied
  • Eating out less at fast-food restaurants -- Almost 60 percent of shoppers reported eating out at fast-food restaurants less
  • Eating out less at sit-down restaurants -- Four out of five are eating out at sit-down restaurants less frequenty, up 11 percent
  • Cutting coupons more -- Almost 60 percent claim they are cutting coupons more, up 12 percent
  • Cutting down on groceries -- 54 percent are cutting down on the quantity of groceries purchased to save money, up from 42 percent
  • Eating less/fewer meals -- 22 percent of them are actually trying to eat less food or fewer meals, up from 11 percent
Cutting back on nonessentials
Items that shoppers may see as "luxuries," like Convenience, Desserts, Snacks, and Candy are the categories where more shoppers are cutting back. The top 10 items that shoppers attitudinally consider to be some of the most expendable to save money include:
  1. Fast foods
  2. Pizza Delivery
  3. Sodas
  4. Grocery store prepared meals/items
  5. Cookies
  6. Beef
  7. Ice cream
  8. Chocolate
  9. Frozen snacks
  10. Other Desserts
"The extended economic uncertainty has had a very profound and deepening impact on consumer attitudes and behavior," says Barbara Katz, president of HealthFocus International. "The resulting practice of shoppers using cost cutting strategies could have a lingering impact, irrespective of whether or not economic conditions improve."
This study is a follow-up from the HFI report in April 2009 on Grocery Buying in the Current Economy and surveyed 1,000 primary grocery shoppers to explore how shoppers with income reduction (vs. unemployment or loss of income) are dealing with the recent economic change.

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