Upscale U.S. Consumers Adjusting Food Demands During Recession

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

Upscale U.S. Consumers Adjusting Food Demands During Recession

In the midst of an economic downturn, even more affluent U.S. shoppers are reconsidering grocery and foodservice purchases, according to “Premium Consumers in the New Economy: Food and Foodservice, a recent report from New York-based market research publisher Packaged Facts.

A more adventurous taste in food, higher health and nutrition consciousness, firmer preferences for organic and natural foods, a heightened sense of ethical consumerism, and a greater propensity for Internet and coupon use are the attributes for an increasing number of premium U.S. consumers. Such psychographic responses to financial change have reshaped -- and will continue to alter -- consumer spending on food, the report found.

“The economic turmoil that reached crisis level in fall 2008 has been a bull in the china shop of American consumer behavior, even for a market as fundamental as food,” noted report author David Sprinkle. “Consumers who have been set back or thrust forward financially are more likely to be rethinking what they need, what they want, and how and where best to find it.”

The report found that the direction of financial change matters less than the fact of financial change in molding consumer mindsets. Therefore, upscale consumers who have taken a financial hit often align in attitudes and behavior with those on the financial upswing, as opposed to those whose finances have remained stable.

Packaged Facts defines premium consumers as either single-person households with an income of at least $75,000, or multiple person households with an income of $100,000 or higher. The premium designation accounts for the top 28 percent of adults, or about 61 million out of 222 million adults. As of first quarter 2009, over twice as many adults in the premium group thought they were worse off (vs. the year before) than thought they were better off.

Economic hardship is leveling the shopping playing field, according to the report. Upscale consumers, although still less likely than other consumers to shop at Walmart Supercenters, are, however, switching to Walmart at above-average rates. Specific segments of premium consumers (such as Gen Xers) are opting for less expensive fast food, particularly the better-for-you varieties. And premium consumers use coupons more, not less, than the rest of the population.

“Premium Consumers in the New Economy: Food and Foodservice” is the latest installment in Packaged Facts’ ongoing examination of consumer responses to the shifting economy. For further information, visit