As extra SNAP assistance expired in March, recipients almost immediately changed their buying behavior, new research from Numerator confirms.
While the latest government data shows that grocery inflation is slowing, the expiration of emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments has affected consumers around the country. According to a new survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, one in four households who experienced the rollback of pandemic-era SNAP benefits report that they “sometimes” or “often” do not have enough to eat. The Census Bureau data shows that more consumers in the United States are going hungry than during the peak of COVID-19 assistance.
To further gauge the impact of the SNAP changes, data and tech company Numerator has created a SNAP Insights Center that provides more insights into SNAP/WIC customers and their shopping trips. Numerator uses verified payment methods to analyze SNAP consumer behavior.
The first analysis published through the center affirms that those who use the assistance programs are indeed changing their behavior. According to the data, the number of grocery units bought by SNAP recipients dipped 12% in March on a year-over-year basis, following the March 1 cut in emergency benefits. In addition to reducing their purchases, nearly half (49%) of program users said they are shifting to cheaper brands and 34% are opting for more private label brands.
The data also supports the Census Bureau’s findings. A majority of SNAP shoppers – 58% – said that their monthly allocation now lasts them two weeks, compared to 41% who reported that last fall.
These different behaviors impact grocers as well, according to Numerator's insights. The data reveals that all SNAP-eligible grocery departments experienced a faster decline in unit volume for SNAP recipients than non-recipients, with categories like shelf-stable meals, meats, frozen foods and herbs and spices are showing notable decreases. Meanwhile, private label sales are up, in food as well as nonfood segments such as health and beauty, baby and home and garden.
Numerator’s first Insights Center report also shared how retailers and CPGs are reacting to the situation. For example, single price point offers increased their share of voice by four percentage points in March and now account for 20% of all promoted products.
“Strategically timing promotions could prove to be a more effective strategy to aid SNAP recipients,” suggested Numerator’s analysts in the published report. “Leaders should push their brand and shopper marketing teams to evaluate the impact of their promotions on SNAP recipients. By identifying the most effective offer tactics and timing their local activation alongside SNAP disbursements, companies can extend the purchasing power of SNAP shoppers throughout the entire month.”