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BLOG: The options available for people to combat food price hikes are diminishing

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Food prices are soaring and while Brits have found savvy ways to cut back, there’s only so much they can trim.

People are getting poorer. Inflation, a widespread pocket blaze, is burning holes in wallets across the country. The Bank of England has tried to put it out, splashing it with a quarter-point hike in the base rate here and a half-point hike there, but the fire is still raging. We’ve had two successive months of inflation figures ‘shockingly’ higher than expected and so the analysts whisper… “we weren’t expecting that”.

The result of this miscalculation – despite forecasts which still predict the worst of inflation to be over by the end of the year – is to extend this period of pronounced financial difficulty and cause severe anxieties over how resilient inflation may prove over the long-term.

During these setbacks, Brits have shown a remarkable and savvy ability to mitigate rising prices. Indeed, shopping habits have fundamentally changed to lower checkout bills. ZIPZERO conducted research among 2,000 adults in the UK to uncover exactly what these changes are, in addition to how food inflation is impacting the daily lives of Brits.

Shoppers adapt but decisions aren’t without consequence

Over the past 12 months, a quarter of adults have switched to a cheaper supermarket, while 43% have switched to cheaper brands. In addition, what shoppers are buying has also changed: 30% have begun buying more food from the reduced section, 25% have brought more frozen food and 21% are buying less meat and fish.

These changes in diet are emblematic of a public forced to adapt to the current economic landscape. Yet, despite such resilience and impressive financial management, our research also uncovered that these decisions are not without consequence.

A health crisis amid changing social norms

Notably, 35% of Brits say their diet has been negatively impacted by rising food prices. Demonstrating a consistent theme throughout our research, young people were disproportionately affected with 53% of 18-34-year-olds saying their diet had suffered.

In addition, financial anxieties are having a significant mental impact. Two-in-five adults say that concerns over the rising price of food have negatively impacted their mental health; once again, this number rises massively for those aged 18-34 to 56%.

Sadly, this pervasive decline in mental health comes as little surprise when considering the mounting financial pressures Brits battle. Our research revealed that rising prices are forcing Brits to make damaging decisions; ones which erode quality of life and challenge the expectations of an advanced economy and modern society.

Two in five Brits say they are worried about putting food on the table. Meanwhile, a quarter of adults say they have had to prioritise feeding others over themselves, and 15% say they have begun skipping meals in the past 12 months.

Once again, young people were found to be worst affected, with one in five skipping meals. Despite a gap between their younger counterparts, a worrying one in ten adults aged over 55 are also skipping meals – with older people particularly vulnerable, the prominence of this measure as a money-saving strategy poses a grave health risk.

Brits are also forced to explore more drastic measures, with one in 20 adults saying they have begun to use food banks in the past 12 months and one-in-twenty-five intentionally mis-scanning items at the self-checkout in order to combat rising prices.

Out of room for manoeuvre

Such symptoms signify that households have run out of room to financially manoeuvre – the number of options available for people to combat price hikes is diminishing.

Supermarkets, albeit also operating within a deeply challenging economic environment, must now recognise that people cannot afford more price hikes.

Of course, retailers exist to sell products. However, the adoption of food banks and self-checkout theft clearly indicates that, by continuing to pass on rising costs, supermarkets are inflicting an act of self-harm, minimising overall revenues – literally, cutting off the hand that feeds.

Additionally, supermarkets must be cautious that promotional techniques do not risk further straining the personal finances of customers.

How to avoid the supermarket spending tricks

If you’re looking to keep more of your cash rather than spending it at the supermarket, take particular care of:

  • Eyeline pocket products

Items, such as gum, sweets, and candles at the front of the checkout are specifically placed to make you pick up a few extras as you leave.

  • Special discounts

Grabbing a bargain is a great way to save cash but it’s crucial to consider how this purchase reduces or replaces other items on your shopping list.

  • The seasonal promotion

As we transition into summer, we’re sure to see posters featuring sunshine-soaked products on a garden table. Be sure to whet your appetites but make sure the seasonal ‘it’ item is something you’ll make use of.

Marketing & brand strategy must move to a position of shopper support

The need for this is obvious by the lack of faith households have in both government and supermarkets: four out of five adults say the government is out of touch with the challenges posed by food inflation and three out of five say supermarkets are being greedy by raising food prices.

The fact is that food inflation is damaging the mental, physical, and financial health of adults across the country. As we continue to battle this economic crisis, we must ensure we do not sleepwalk into a national health one.

Brits have done their part by exploring nearly every method at their disposal. Now, the government must work with supermarkets to avoid further price hikes, while independently, supermarkets must now consider how they can support customers financially.

Finding ways to save households cash on their everyday shopping has to be the first part of this; and by redesigning marketing strategies away from upselling to one that improves financial stability, supermarkets will soon find themselves rewarded in brand loyalty.

Mohsin Rashid is the CEO and co-founder of money saving app ZIPZERO