Grocery Shoppers Become Budget-Conscious

Private-label revenue is on the rise as families tighten budgets.

May 18, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Initially, it was a stockpiling craze. Grocery carts were overflowing with toilet paper, canned goods and staple items as Americans planned to stay at home for as long as they could muster. Now, customers have shifted their tactics to “penny pinching” and spending less across popular convenience store categories, CNBC reports.

Market research firm IRI found that U.S. shoppers are making more trips to dollar stores and decreasing their intake of snacks and sodas at c-stores. As unemployment rises to nearly 14.7% and monthly budgets shrink, many families are cutting back on spending and being “very careful” about where their money goes right now.

“As this drags on, you are going to see a lot more recessionary behavior coming up,” said Krishnakumar Davey, president of strategic analytics at IRI. “We are just seeing the beginnings of it.”

Grocery spending is still up as people still cook more at home but pay more as grocery prices rise. Consumers are also worried about their health—which may be influencing what they pick out at the store.

Private label products, which typically sell for less than national brands, are seeing an uptick in popularity. Private label sales were up nearly 19% for the four-week period ended May 3, compared with the year-ago period. When the pandemic took hold in the U.S., shoppers chose private labels because they were often the only thing left on the shelves. Now, the trend may stick because people are watching every penny—and enjoying the products.