SNAP Recipients Are Changing Their Buying Behavior

A majority of SNAP recipients report that their monthly allocation only lasts them two weeks.

May 23, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—With the recent expiration of the SNAP Emergency Allotments (EA) program, SNAP recipients have changed their buying behaviors, creating different pressures for consumers, brands and retailers alike, according to research from Numerator.

SNAP recipients are buying fewer groceries than they were a year ago. Grocery units purchased by SNAP recipients in states that recently dropped the EA program decreased by 12% in March 2023 year over year—twice the rate of decline for non-recipients in those states. 

All SNAP-eligible grocery departments are seeing declines in volume. No grocery department eligible for SNAP benefits saw resilience against unit volume declines among recipients. Departments that showed the largest difference between SNAP recipients and non-recipients living in states that dropped the EA program included shelf-stable meals (SNAP recipients down 21% in March 2023 compared to the previous year), meats (-18%), frozen foods (-16%) and herbs and spices (-15%).

According to an April 2023 Numerator survey, a majority of those receiving SNAP benefits (58%) report that their monthly allocation only lasts them two weeks, as opposed to 41% who said the same in September 2022. When asked how they were coping with rising food prices, 49% said they had switched to cheaper brands (up from 43% who said the same in February 2023), and 34% said they were buying more private-label brands (up from 29%). The only cost-saving measure that declined from February to April was “stocking up during a sale” (48% in April, 54% in February).

From March 2022 to March 2023, private label gained disproportionate share among SNAP recipients living in states that dropped the EA program (compared to non-recipients) in the grocery and health and beauty categories—and even more significantly in baby and home and garden.

Numerator recently released “Helping SNAP Consumers During Economic Headwinds,” which examines the impact of the SNAP on modern consumers through the analysis of verified purchases by SNAP recipients. Overall, SNAP consumers account for 24% of total CPG spend.

Learn more about NACS advocacy on SNAP-related issues, including removing the hot foods restriction.