Northern Ireland’s hard-pressed consumers are watching what they eat, with the majority of householders now spending less on food than ever before.
That’s according to a new survey which has revealed that six out of 10 people have pruned their grocery bills to an all-time low to save money.
The research also showed that three quarters of respondents have stopped buying luxury food items altogether.
Indeed, more than half said they were cutting back on foodstuffs they had previously never had to cut back on.
The independent study, which was carried out last week for Tesco, was based on 1,000 shoppers who were questioned at 10 of the company’s stores across the province.
Almost half of those surveyed also admitted they had changed their supermarket allegiance in the past few months.
The findings also indicated that nine out of 10 consumers are making a conscious decision to shop for bargains, while seven out of 10 are being tempted into specific stores by one-off offers.
Although 68% say quality is more important than price (down from 72%), four out of 10 shoppers would buy cheaper imports over local produce (double the pre-Christmas figure).
Nearly three out of 10 are doing more shopping online — and the same number say they are finding more bargains on internet shopping sites, where customers can opt to select cheaper alternatives on many products.
Tesco Northern Ireland director Gary Mills said the findings were positive proof that Northern Ireland consumers are becoming more savvy.
“This survey confirms that shoppers are voting with their feet in a bid to make their money go further,” he said.
“In these difficult times, it’s all about listening to your customers — and that’s what Tesco does.”
Mr Mills said that the company’s last survey forecast that shoppers intended to reduce their spending in the New Year, adding that Tesco had responded to customer needs by offering ongoing weekly reductions on up to 1,000 products.
He added: “We are also helping people stretch their budgets through our discounter range, which carries over 400 lines, our low cost/high quality market value range, and further deep cut promotions on produce and meat on an ongoing basis.”