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Rising cost of living is impacting shopper behaviour


Erin Nixon, commercial director and Brendan Gallen, strategy director of The Foundation.

Erin Nixon, commercial director and Brendan Gallen, strategy director of The Foundation.

Erin Nixon, commercial director and Brendan Gallen, strategy director of The Foundation.

Recent shopper research across the island of Ireland by The Foundation has revealed 85% of consumers say the rising cost of living is impacting how they shop.

It’s anticipated that the impact will be felt by local food and drink brands, with 36% expecting to buy less local produce. However, in some good news, 46% of respondents are still committed to buying the same levels of local food and drink products.

Conducted in March 2022, the research by branding and digital agency The Foundation was commissioned to examine the impact of the rising cost of living on shopper behaviour and how this will impact on local food and drink brands.

It’s the latest report from The Foundation and is part of its Building Better Insights series which provides current consumer insights.

“The cost of living is not a ‘trend’, it’s a crisis,” said Brendan Gallen, strategy director of The Foundation. “Local producers have built a global reputation for the quality of their food and drink products, but with consumer spend being squeezed due to the eyewatering rise in energy prizes, it’s crucial that local brands communicate value as well as quality.

“Brands should be mindful of their content when marketing, showing empathy for consumers, taking action and demonstrating that they recognise how challenging it is for households.

“Rich content that focuses on multiple uses of a product, how to make a product go further, money saving hacks etc. will all pay dividends for brands in terms of consumer preference. At a time when inflation is rising alongside shoppers’ concerns, communicating in a relevant way that conveys value is essential.”

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The growth of the own label category over the past 10 years has been significant however, as the year progresses, it’s predicted that shelf space for own label will further increase as the price of utilities continues to rise. In fact, in the research, 61% said that they now buy own label products with 71% purchasing goods considered to be from the ‘value’ range.

The research also points to savvy shoppers buying larger sizes in products to save money in the long run with 49% actively choosing to purchase bigger packs.

Erin Nixon, commercial director, The Foundation, said: “Research gives brands valuable and current insight to adapt their approach in response to the market right now. For example, increasing pack size, increasing promotional spend on ‘family’ packs or tweaking marketing campaigns to communicate ‘added value’ are just some of the potential solutions for local food and drink brands.”

Michele Shirlow, CEO of Food NI, said: “Current research and responding to macro trends is vital for all brands, but for our local producers, they win on quality every single time. The market is challenging, shoppers are under pressure, but our local brands have demonstrated time and time again they are innovative and adaptable.

“For NI food and drink brands, it would be prudent to reflect on the findings of this latest report, consider how they can communicate their value proposition and look for the opportunities.”

In addition to value and price, shoppers also buy with their eyes, and 72% of respondents said seeing the product behind or through packaging has considerable or lots of influence on their purchase.

In addition to packaging, ‘ease of preparation’ is a trend that has been steadily on the rise. The ease in which shoppers can cook/prepare a product has either ‘considerable’ or ‘lots of influence’ on purchase (62%).

Nixon said: “Brands’ marketing efforts should always be fluid. A brand’s values are consistent but to achieve cut-through in terms of marketing requires a nimble approach that’s adapted based on consumer trends and the wider environment.

“Brands that respond to the new normal will make gains and that’s why we’re committed to conducting real and current consumer research through our ‘Building Better Insights’ reports that can help local brands to make informed decisions with regards to their marketing.”

The research identified other important factors for shoppers when it comes to buying food and drink products including ‘sourcing’, ‘fresh’ and ‘convenience’.

Almost 500 consumers across the island of Ireland participated in the online survey which was conducted in March 2022. To download the complimentary report, please see www.wearethefoundation.co.uk or email brendan@wearethefoundation.co.uk for further information.