Economic recession, recovery and realignment are major drivers of change in the U.S. food and beverage industry and consumer values and purchasing behaviors, according to findings in “The Business of Thrift: Understanding Low-Income and Value-Oriented Consumers” report, produced by The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash.
“As the U.S. economy continues to shift, understanding and meeting the needs of these various types of value-seeking consumers in the U.S. has never been more critical,” says Laurie Demeritt, chief executive officer. “Most consumers engage in thrifty behaviors — especially in their household shopping — because this type of frugality is culturally valued. However, for mid/high-income consumers, frugality is more of a choice, whereas for low-income consumers it is a necessary way of life.”
The report finds that despite this wealth gap, quality attributes like organic and less processed cues are still growing in importance. Similarly, as fewer households are able to call themselves “middle class,” the traditional consumer base of many brands and grocery stores is gradually eroding. At the same time, even those who are doing okay financially often can find themselves prioritizing thrift when it comes to food.
Consumers across all income levels share similar social and political attitudes as well as similar general attitudes around eating, cooking and health and wellness. However, low-income consumers are more likely to view their diet and health as diminished relative to other consumers.
“Low-income shoppers are as likely to cook as higher-income folks, but their tight budgets preclude risk taking,” says Demeritt. “They opt more often for whatever is easiest and cheapest and are less likely to prioritize nutrition.”