Inflationary pressure, COVID worries impact meat purchases

The combination of 40-year high inflation and the upswing in COVID-19 cases moved more meals to the home in January 2022, at 82% of all meal occasions. This is the highest number since February 2021.

(Andrea Gantz)
(Andrea Gantz)

The combination of 40-year high inflation and the upswing in COVID-19 cases moved more meals to the home in January 2022, at 82% of all meal occasions. This is the highest number since February 2021. 

Restaurant takeout remained popular in January 2022, at 54% of shoppers having done so, but fewer people dined inside, at 41%. In addition to COVID concerns, cutting back on restaurant spending is one of the most popular money-saving measures. 

In response to inflationary pressure around the store, 64% of shoppers have made one or more changes to what and how they buy. Forty-five percent of shoppers look for sales specials more often, 31% are cutting back on non-essentials, 19% buy more private brand and 12% now shop at a lower-cost retailer. The vast majority of trips took place in-store in January 2022, at 86%. 

During the early months of the pandemic, as many as 20% of retail trips were online. This dropped to a low of 11% in July of 2021 and sat at 14% in January 2022. The 14% was split between delivery (7%), curbside pickup (6%) and in-store pickup (1%). 

However, many shoppers still predict that their shopping will remain store-centric: 65% say all their shopping will be in store versus just 4% who believe they will purchase all groceries online. The remaining 31% plan to mostly purchase a little or some items online in a mixed format shopping approach. When shopping in person, 73% estimate they spent as much time in the store as they normally do but 20% said they shopped faster. This means in-person trips will continue to capture the bulk of purchases in the next few months. 

The combined effect of concerns over COVID-19, inflation and supply chain challenges explain why shopper demand remains in flux as we enter the third pandemic year. 

In January, 38% of the population were extremely concerned over COVID-19, which was down sharply from 66% in April 2020, according to the monthly primary shopper survey series by IRI. Shoppers are very aware of food inflation (89%) and the vast majority (95%) worry about it. In total, 42% of shoppers are extremely concerned about the price increases they are seeing across the grocery store — which means food inflation has more people on high alert than COVID-19 as of January 2022. 

Impact of these shifts in meat demand and consumer shopping habits

The marketplace disruption caused by inflation, supply chain challenges and COVID-19 is not showing signs of letting up any time soon. Shoppers are reacting in a wide variety of ways. 

  • At 82.4%, the at-home share of all meals reached its highest level in a year, which favors spending at food retail. 
  • At the same time, the inflationary levels in retail have two-thirds of shoppers looking for one or more money saving measures. Inflation will likely continue to drive dollar gains for most categories in the foreseeable future but is pressuring unit and volume sales. 
  • For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, a greater share of shoppers (29%) feel their financial situation a year from now will be worse versus better (23%). About half, 48%, think it will be unchanged. This outlook may prompt a greater focus on money-saving measures beyond the current marketplace behaviors alone. 
  • Continued rising inflation and shortages are driving stock up behaviors among 42% of shoppers. While 58% do not buy more than they need, 14% stocked up on one or more items out of concerns for continued price increases and 19% stocked up out of fear that the item will be out-of-stock next time. 

The next performance report in the IRI, 210 Analytics and Marriner Marketing series will be released mid-March to cover the February sales trends. 

Please thank the entire meat and poultry industry, from farm to store, for all they do.

Page 1 of 91
Next Page