How does recession affect food buying habits?

It’s undeniable – wherever you are, recession has likely kicked in. Suffering months of pandemic paralysis, the global economy has taken a huge hit and it will be some time before it recovers. Despite (almost) unprecedented levels of government aid, citizens around the world will feel the pinch of recession and will be forced to change their habits.

Among these is how people spend their money on food. With less cash available, how do people adapt their food buying? In this post, we delve into data collected from previous recessions to answer this question and help international food buyers shape their strategies for the coming months.

More ‘food at home’

Recession is not necessarily bad news for food retailers. When an economic downturn happens, evidence shows that whilst people reign back spending on eating out, their regular food shopping doesn’t actually change that much. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, demonstrates that the relative importance of ‘food at home’ increases during recession, as people decide to cook at home more.

More ‘generic’ foods

Whilst people may be cooking more at home during ‘bust’ years, they’re not necessarily being more inventive. According to The National Bureau of Economic Research, people tend to opt for more ‘generic’ foods during hard times. What exactly are ‘generic’ foods? Well, anything that might be considered a staple and can be used for various meals – passata and dried pasta are but two examples (we’ve already seen how people rely on pasta during hard times). It’s thought that buying these ‘generic’ foods in place of more specialised items will save the consumer on average 13-25% on their food shopping costs.

More private labels

A 2018 study from Nielsen Group found that people buy more private label foods during economic downturns, as they consider them cost-effective yet quality alternatives to branded products. This shift towards private labels isn’t actually anything new – it’s been happening for years. Recession is more a catalyst for this change and private labels are only going to become more popular in European supermarkets.

Less organic food

As price becomes more important during recession, consumers turn away from more expensive organic products. A survey conducted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis showed that 69% of respondents would seek to buy fewer organic products in order to save money.

Retailers need to adapt during a recession to offer consumers quality products at a restricted price. Difficult as this may be, it’s an easier task with the help of a trusted food sourcing partner. If you’re currently searching for Italian food products, get in contact with the Italian Food Experts. We work with small to medium producers across Italy, and we’ll be able to match you with your ideal supplier whatever your requirements are.