It often seems that people who need coupons the most, use them the least. Studies have shown that higher-income shoppers are more likely to use coupons than lower-income shoppers, for example. Those who can afford a smartphone and internet access use more digital coupons than those without access to technology. And people who are single or childless appear to save more at the grocery store, while parents with expensive little mouths to feed are apparently just too busy and harried to clip many coupons at all.

That’s one of the findings in the latest “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report by FMI – The Food Industry Association.

Its newest shopper survey found that rising prices and affordability concerns are “weighing on all grocery shoppers, but especially parents, as Americans prepare for back-to-school and fall routines.”

Two-thirds of shoppers say they’re spending more on groceries now than they were this time last year. The average weekly grocery bill now comes to $159, up 17% from last year. But the weekly average for households with children is significantly higher – $213 a week, up 20% from last year.

So you might think shoppers would be looking for ways to save, cutting back on excess purchases and taking advantage of deals. And they are. Well, some of them are.

Among the nearly three-quarters of shoppers who say they are very or extremely concerned about rising food prices, 54% say they’re looking for more deals, up 2% from just a few months ago. 43% are buying more store brands, and about a third say they’re buying items only when they’re on sale, buying fewer items overall, or using their store loyalty programs more.


But parents, whose grocery bills are about 35% higher than the average shopper, are often “less likely to adapt deal-seeking behaviors,” FMI’s report found. Only 42% of parents say they’re looking for more deals, compared to 54% of all shoppers. And only about a quarter say they’ll buy items only when they’re on sale, or are buying fewer items overall.

“This suggests parents have more constraints on their shopping behavior,” FMI observed. Parents are more concerned about rising food prices than the average shopper, but they have “less capacity to adjust,” and therefore “have more reason to worry.”

One way parents are saving time, but not money, is by purchasing more groceries online. Only 5% of all grocery shoppers say online shopping is the main way they do their shopping, but that percentage shoots up to 15% among shoppers with children at home. Parents may be concerned about rising prices, but the report finds they also have a “heightened need for time savings and convenience” that they get from ordering online, even if it costs more to do so.

FMI advises retailers to cater to these shoppers instead of taking advantage of them. “Parents have not found shopping tactics to align with their higher level of concern, and therefore may need special attention,” the report states. It suggests retailers should make it easier for online shoppers to apply coupons, or look for ways to minimize delivery fees for busy parents who find themselves having to choose between convenience and cost. Many simply find they don’t have the time to clip coupons and match them up with sales while making a grocery list.

Some aspects of grocery shopping are getting better, at least. Shopper concern about products being out of stock at the grocery store is now at its lowest level since before the Covid pandemic. And while rising prices remain a concern, the percentage of shoppers worried about grocery affordability is beginning to come down.

But some deal-seeking behaviors may be here to stay. “Shoppers continue to seek deals and try new tactics to manage their spending,” the FMI report concludes. “Even if inflation itself continues to subside, grocery shoppers continue to feel its impact on food affordability and will continue to need support for their value-seeking tactics from their food retailers.”

Raising kids is expensive enough as it is. And helping parents to lower their grocery bills is not only potentially a nice move, but could be a smart business move. After all, brands and retailers that make it easier for parents to save, may find that those parents’ loyalty lasts long after the kids are all grown up.

Image source: Walmart


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