Falling home values. Rising transportation costs. Soaring food prices. It’s not hard to see why consumer confidence is at its lowest level in years. According to the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index, consumer confidence in the economy fell to 33.1 in March - the least it’s been since RBC began tracking consumer attitudes on the current and future state of local economies, personal finance situations, savings and confidence to make large investments in 2002. The drop represents a 15.4-point decrease from the previous month.

But what does this decline in the general public’s faith in the economy mean for food processors?

The average household spends 13 percent of its income on food - and this number is unlikely to change. What is likely to change is where consumers choose to spend their money. Experts predict that consumers spending more on food and gas will have less to spend on discretionary purchases.

On one hand, this is good news for retail food processors. Historically, less spending means less eating out at fancy and fast-casual restaurants - leading to more eating in. In fact, two out of three consumers are cooking more meals at home and eating out less, according to Packaged Facts.

On the other hand, this could signal bad news. In a recent Boston Globe article on the topic, one consumer said she would stop buying pre-cut chicken breasts and instead buy whole chickens - at a better rate - and do the cutting herself.

Will consumers fail to see the “value” in value-added (more expensive) food products as the economy continues to flounder and food prices continue to rise?

Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. A recent Wall Street Journal report actually suggested the opposite. Despite the fact that several large consumer packaged food companies saw sales growth slow to 1.1 percent in the four-week period ending Feb. 23, companies with premium and new products and strong brand loyalty were expected to fare the best in coming months. And retailers still are finding success with in-store deli items, reports Packaged Facts.

No matter how grim the current economic outlook, so far it doesn’t seem to have eclipsed consumers’ desire for foods that provide convenience and (well-priced) novelty.

Just the facts

Women often skip meals -- or replace them with something else -- according to a recent survey conducted by Dannon Light & Fit. Of the 25 percent of women who said they replaced meals with something else, 9 percent said they chose a diet soft drink and 6 percent said they replaced meals with potato chips or French fries.
Source: United Press International

There’s new evidence that supplements don’t have the same affect as getting vitamins and nutrients from actual food. A study of 30,000 adult women found that women who drank more fat free milk and ate calcium and vitamin D rich foods -- rather than taking supplements -- tended to have a lower risk for developing hypertension or high blood pressure.
Source: The American Heart Association journal – Hypertension

Consumers say they are willing to give up packaging that is bad for the environment according to a recent survey. The Nielsen Co. found that 58 percent of consumers would give up packaging designed for easy stacking and storing, 55 percent would give up packaging that may be used for cooking or doubling as re-sealable containers and 53 percent would give up packaging designed for easy transport.
Source: Food Business News

What is your food doing for you? According to recent data, chances are it’s helping your health in some way. The functional food and drink market in the U.S., Western Europe and Asia Pacific is worth an estimated $72.3 billion according to Datamonitor. Further, this market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 percent between 2007 and 2012.
Source: Datamonitor