The latest CivicScience data indicate that Americans are budgeting to spend more on groceries, more so than any other category. However, data also show many grocery shoppers are cutting costs where and when they can to contend with inflation. To what extent is this happening and how is it shaping the CPG market?

As 2022 heads toward a close, CivicScience took stock of how the U.S. public is shopping for groceries and how things have changed over the course of the year.

To start, high grocery prices continue to lead the majority of adults to forgo purchases they would otherwise make, and this trend is only growing. The percentage of people who have stopped themselves from purchasing grocery items reached 77% this month, the highest point seen since tracking began in April. Those who say they have stopped themselves ‘many times’ has climbed six percentage points over the course of the year to 37%.

What specific grocery items are Americans purchasing less often due to rising prices and/or supply chain issues? An October poll shows that nearly every grocery category appears to be impacted to some degree, but the top five most heavily impacted are meat, snack and dessert items, specialty and prepared foods, organics, and fresh produce.

However, nearly every category shows significant change from the start of the year, meaning substantially more shoppers have scaled back on how frequently they are buying certain food and beverage items. In total, 72% of respondents report purchasing from at least one category less often, up from 63% in January. The only categories that shoppers don’t report buying even less often since that time: meat, fresh produce, and canned/preserved foods.

Alcohol, snacks and desserts, specialty and prepared foods, organics, and even eggs and dairy have all seen significant losses in purchasing frequency.

Price (more than supply chain issues) is likely the biggest driver for these changes, which is also being reflected in changes to brand preference and loyalty. The percentage of U.S. adults who say that price and sales are major motivators to switch brands on groceries grew from 38% in January to 43% in October. On the other hand, those who say they switch brands due to their preferred brand being out of stock fell six percentage points to just 19%.

So even though people are prioritizing spending on groceries over most other categories – including holiday shopping – data indicate that’s not exactly a winning scenario for CPG brands and retailers. Certain retailers are more affected than others – CivicScience data also show that consumers continue to shift where they shop for groceries, quickly moving away from local independent grocers, among other trends.

Get ahead of market shifts in the rapidly-changing CPG space with the CivicScience InsightStore.