Consumers changing meal strategies

by Staff
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ROSEMONT, ILL. — As food and gas prices are increasing to record levels, many consumers are seeking value, making trade-offs and counting on leftovers when meal planning, according to a new report by The NPD Group.

"American consumers now spend about 10% of their disposable income on food and have not, historically, allowed food expenses to rise faster than their disposable income," said Harry Balzer, vice-president of The N.P.D. Group. "Consumers will likely shift behaviors to find food solutions that meet a budget before spending more on the same foods."

In its report, "How do economically challenging times affect in-home meal strategies," The NPD Group found one-third of adults feel their financial situation is worse this year than last. Most of those concerned have larger families and many of these concerned adults are trying to prepare meals at home, use up leftovers and stock up on items when they are on sale.

In the past consumers have turned to supermarkets and meals at home when the economy is in a downturn. This trend appears to be continuing considering last year 80% of snacks and meals were consumed at home. Another NPD Group study showed the restaurant industry posting no organic growth in 2007.

"Despite rising grocery prices, in-home meals still provide a better value to consumers," said Arnie Schwartz, head of The NPD Group’s food and beverage unit. "One estimate shows that an in-home meal costs about a third of the meal purchased away from home."

Not only is price a factor contributing to more in-home meals, but health concerns and a leveling off of women entering the workforce also is contributing to a rise in dining in.

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