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Eighty-five percent of consumers are paying more for groceries during COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds

Fewer promotions are contributing to higher bills at checkout

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Photo (c) Sergei Gnatiuk - Getty Images
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a massive number of changes to all of our lives, but one of the larger ones for consumers is the price hike on certain grocery staples. 

Americans across the country have been shelling out more for products like meat, eggs, poultry, and everyday household goods. That trend began to accelerate in March, and there’s no sign that prices will fall to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. 

At a time when unemployment remains high and the economy isn’t growing, every extra penny adds up. To find the pain point of where consumers feel pinched, C+R Research surveyed 2,040 consumers and asked them how COVID-19 has affected their food budget, shopping habits, and the foods they eat. 

Majority of consumers paying more for groceries

Overall, C+R’s findings look like this:

  • Eighty-five percent of American consumers report paying more for groceries during COVID-19, spending $139 a week on average.

  • Meat (68 percent), eggs (48 percent), and milk (48 percent) were among the top three food items that Americans say they've been paying more for during COVID-19. In the household aisle, the top two product categories that have seen price increases are cleaning supplies (59 percent) and paper products like toilet paper and paper towels (39 percent). Consumers say they’re also feeling an added pinch when it comes to services, with utilities (33 percent) leading the way.

  • Eighty-three percent of respondents are still having difficulty finding the grocery items they would normally purchase. 

  • The top ways consumers are cutting back on grocery spending include eating less meat and poultry products, looking for discounts, avoiding organic items, and buying in bulk.

  • Seventy-five percent of respondents still feel uncomfortable when shopping at a grocery store (up from 60  percent in April). 

What’s the reason?

ConsumerAffairs asked Terrie Wendricks, the VP of Consumer and Shopper Insights at C+R Research, to weigh in on why consumers seem to be getting hit everywhere they turn.

“There are a handful of trends that are contributing to consumers paying more for groceries during COVID-19,” she said. “There are currently fewer promotions happening, and that is part of the reason why groceries cost more today. It isn’t necessarily that the manufacturers have fewer reasons to offer promotions. It is more a concern that promotions would heighten out of stock issues already created by COVID stockpiling behavior.”

Wendricks pointed to data from Nielsen that shows a decline in discounts is helping fuel larger grocery bills. Statistics show that only 26.2 percent of all items were purchased on sale in August, compared to the average rate of 31.4 percent. The other issue causing higher grocery prices is the demand caused by consumers squirreling away certain items like sanitizing gel and toilet paper

“In March, there was initial stockpiling of key grocery items because of panic buying, and consumers have continued to buy more groceries to eat at home due to safety concerns as well as closures of restaurants and capacity limitations in dining rooms,” Wendricks told ConsumerAffairs.

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