Snacks first to go from shopping baskets, dining out biggest casualty

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 29th September 2008

Grocery Aisle

While the majority of Australians (94%) claim to be extremely or somewhat concerned about continuing inflation over the next 12 months, interest rate hikes have little effect on the spending patterns of two in five Aussies, according to a recent Internet survey conducted by The Nielsen Company. The study did suggest, however, that dining out and purchases of common snack foods will decline, as economic pressure intensifies.

According to Nielsen, while one in five (22%) Australians will immediately reduce spending when interest rates go up, over a third (36%) will wait and see, and 41 per cent say changes to interest rates have no impact on their spending. “This is characteristic of Aussie consumers,” notes Luke Starick, Associate Director, Customized Research, The Nielsen Company, “We may be concerned about the future of the economy but a large portion of us aren’t prepared to sacrifice our lifestyles — just yet.”

Across the Tasman, however, Kiwis are either doing it easier or are taking a less cautious approach – almost half (49%) of New Zealanders claim not to change their spending patterns as a result of economic uncertainty, according to the Nielsen survey. When asked which price increase were having the biggest influence on expenses, petrol prices were causing the most pain for 90 per cent of Australians, ahead of increases in the price of basic commodities (87%). By comparison, increases in basic commodity prices were having the biggest impact on New Zealanders (94%), compared to increases in petrol prices (90%).

For those Australians that are adjusting their spending, dining out is the biggest casualty for two in five, followed by recreation (19%) and clothing (12%). When it comes to the weekly grocery shop, Australian shoppers claim to be making small economies, cutting back on non-essential food items such as snack foods (79%), biscuits (72%) and chocolates (71%).

Such findings are significant as they add to the weight of UK and US research signalling heightened pressure on traditional snacks like potato chips, confectionery and biscuits. TNS, a leading research firm, recently relayed information outlining a shift in the snacking behaviour of British consumers.

“Over the past three years snacking has declined by 11%, despite the importance of healthy choices such as fresh fruit,” Matt Stockbridge, TNS Consumer Insight Director, advised. “There is a real shift in the types of snacks consumed in schools and in the workplace, with crisps and confectionery in decline while fruit is on the up. Fruit is now the most popular in-school snack, being eaten 192 million times per year.”

It should be noted, however, that there is still growth potential for traditional snacks provided manufacturers ensure they understand their market. In the current environment, the combination of great taste with health benefits will provide a sound basis for success, as highlighted by the influence of dark and premium chocolate on growth in the chocolate industry. Mintel, a market intelligence firm, discovered that, in spite of the economic downturn, Americans were still boosting the chocolate market as they were excited by new innovative offerings and additional premium and dark chocolate options.