Oct 18, 2022 - Economy

Americans are buying less at the supermarket

Change in price of select food items
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Americans are buying fewer items at the grocery store, as food prices surge, a new survey finds.

Why it matters: We're at a turning point when it comes to food shopping. For a while, inflation was mainly changing what types of items consumers bought — more generics, and different cuts of meat.

  • Now Americans are starting to simply buy less, says Emily Moquin, food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult, which conducted the survey.
  • People are starting to think about what they truly need — and what can wait.
  • It's the opposite of the "pantry loading" we saw in 2020. Now it's pantry unloading. You buy less and work your way through what remains of the old stockpile.

State of play: Nearly a quarter of those surveyed by Morning Consult in September said they're often buying fewer items at the grocery store, in order to save money, up from 15% in October 2021.

  • Context: The cost of food at home is up 13% from last year, according to the latest Consumer Price Index.

Worth noting: That is particularly worrying for low-income shoppers. The percentage of shoppers who worried their food will run out before they have money to buy more increased to 42% from 35%.

What to watch: Credit card balances. Some consumers inevitably will buy food on credit; not an ideal plan at a time of soaring interest rates.

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