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The Upside, Downside of Inflation on Grocers: Report

Coresight Research assesses shoppers’ move to discount chains and store brands
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
store brand eggs
As egg prices spiked in 2022, consumers lifted sales of store brand eggs 5.1%.

By now, virtually all retailers have been trying to get a handle on their shoppers’ interests and needs as inflation and economic pressures have affected the marketplace for more than a year. Using data from sources including Circana (formerly IRI) and Placer.ai, a new report from Coresight Research affirms that consumers are making budget-related adjustments to their buying habits.

According to the report, “How U.S. Consumers Are Shopping for Groceries: Analyzing Traffic, Ticket, E-Commerce and Private Label,” some of the biggest shifts have come in the switch to store brands, visits to discount retailers and shopping frequency. Indeed, the research underscores shoppers’ willingness to break from norms.

[Read more: "EXCLUSIVE: Consumers Wary of Shrinkflation"]

For example, the report points out that grocery discount chains such as ALDI and Grocery Outlet have outperformed the broader grocery market in foot traffic over the past few months. Coresight’s analysis also points to discounters’ ongoing ability to attract new and repeat consumers as value remains a main driver.

The private label sector is another beneficiary of the inflation-hit market, according to Coresight's analysts. Store brands accounted for 18.2% of total U.S. food and beverage sales as of Feb. 19, 2023, up from the 17.4% for the entirety of 2022. The Coresight report highlighted several categories and products with notable private label growth, including coffee creamer, fresh eggs, refrigerated pizza, sugar, butter and vinegar.

As they did during the pandemic era, customers are also changing some of their in-store behaviors. Coresight notes that shopper visits are down, but spending per visit is up. Here, too, inflation is the proverbial sticky widget, as the year-over-year growth in dollar sales is “partly skewed” by inflation, in that consumers are likely paying more for fewer items.

According to the report’s authors, Coresight analyst Sujeet Naik and sector lead Anand Kumar, a key takeaway from the report is that the inflationary pressures are persistent. “Although U.S. grocery inflation is forecast to ease gradually over the course of 2023, the fallout of high prices and consumers’ associated behaviors will linger for some time. This implies we will see significant stickiness in grocery shopping priorities into 2023, with many shoppers favoring low-cost options over quality and convenience. We anticipate that dollar stores and discounters will be more sought-out channels again this year,” they concluded.

The next inflation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on the Consumer Price Index, will be published on April 12.

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