As we all navigate the challenges caused by rising prices, understanding how consumers are behaving differently and making choices differently becomes critical for future success. At Corbion, we are deeply committed to understanding the consumer and their changing needs so that we can adapt our approach and our ingredients to help our customers meet their consumers’ changing needs. Our in-depth research and data analysis provides key insights into how shoppers adapt to the evolving economic landscape, from their choice of retailers to the specific types of food they choose to buy.
Rising Prices Prompting Change in Shopping Patterns
According to Circana, a staggering 96% of shoppers express concern over food cost inflation.1 Many consumers are proactively managing price hikes by shopping more at “value” retailers like Dollar Stores, Aldi and Lidl.1 Consequently, consumers adapt their shopping behaviors in response to higher prices by hunting for sales and cutting back on non-essential items. A more budget-conscious approach is taking shape, with consumers either buying in bulk, purchasing fewer items, or opting for less expensive alternatives.1
In particular, the Bakery segment shows some interesting dynamics. Year to date, the average Bakery consumer is spending 9.5% more than last year, versus the total average Food & Beverage (F&B) consumer who is only spending 5.7% more. However, the Bakery Shoppers’ trip frequency has decreased slightly by (1.5%), contrasting with the total average F&B consumer who has increased trips by 1.2%.2
Changing Preferences in Bakery Product Types
Another intriguing shift is evident in the type of products consumers are buying. Traditional bread purchases have seen a dip, whereas tortilla and flatbread sales have experienced a year-on-year increase, both in units and sales.2 One reason we see category shifts is that spending power is increasing with younger generations who favor flatbreads and tortillas over sandwich bread.
Inflation’s Impact on Bakery Consumers’ Purchasing Criteria
Even though bakery consumers have been faced with some of the highest price increases across the store (average prices are +14.8% vs. a year ago), price has not taken the top spot in purchasing criteria. Consumers tell us their top two purchase criteria for bakery remains Taste/Texture and Quality Ingredients. Surprisingly Price/Good Value for Money ranks lower on the list of purchase criteria importance signaling that consumers still feel bakery products are an affordable option for filling their grocery needs.3
A heightened focus on nutrition labels is emerging, with 90% of consumers telling us they read labels either some of the time or most of the time.3 When perusing these labels, they primarily check for natural ingredients, whole wheat/whole grain, and high fiber content. The term ‘Natural’ also emerges as the most strongly associated attribute to clean label bakery products—which continue to be important to bakery consumers.3
‘Clean Label’ Gains Traction in 2023
The concept of ‘clean label’ remains important to bakery consumers and appears to be increasing in importance. In recent Corbion research, 65% of consumers tell us they are looking for ‘clean label’ bakery products. This attitude is particularly prevalent among Millennials, contrasting Baby Boomers who place less significance on the claim.
Not only do consumers say they value Clean Label in bakery, but their purchasing behavior also supports this as well. Center Store Breads that support Natural or No Artificial claims have outperformed the rest of the Bread segment in the last 4 years of unit trends.2 Leveraging what consumers tell us in research coupled with purchase trend behavior can provide solid guidance on meeting evolving consumer needs.
At Corbion, our Market Insights experts are working to harmonize what we learn from our consumer research with actual purchasing behavior, to help guide us to strategies for future consumer needs and industry opportunities. If you are curious to learn about our research within processed meats or bakery applications, we can tell you not only what’s happening, but we can offer you our hypothesis as to why it’s happening.
1Circana Shopper Survey May 2023, Circana (IRI) Total Food Bev Sales and Shopping Behavior Update, May 2023
2Circana (IRI) Integrated Fresh Bakery Scan data, Total US MULO, data ending May 21, 2023
3Corbion Proprietary Survey, 2023