Fish heads and Spam are flying off the shelves at Waitrose as even its affluent shoppers feel the cost of living squeeze.
Sales of fish heads — used in curries and stocks — increased by 34 per cent, while 36 per cent more shoppers put Spam in their trolley, according to the latest food and drink report from Waitrose & Partners.
James Bailey, the supermarket’s executive director, said that events of the past year have created “a difficult backdrop for many people”. Consumers face the highest rate of grocery price inflation on record, with the average household facing a £643 jump in their annual bill to £5,265 if they continue to buy the same items.
The rising cost of living is affecting food shopping for the overwhelming majority of households, with 72 per cent of survey respondents saying that they were “more mindful” of their grocery budget. More than a third told Waitrose that they were “very concerned” about how rising costs would affect them as winter approached.
Sales of air fryers jumped by 56 per cent in August to households searching for methods of cooking that involve less energy use.
One in five consumers switched from packaged to loose vegetables to save money and 23 per cent switched to own brand products.
The popularity of so-called “yellow-sticker’’ items has risen this year, with one in four shoppers saying they keep an eye out for discounted goods. A measure used by a quarter of respondents was making a shopping list and sticking to it, the survey showed.
Although most shoppers had tightened their belt, 30 per cent of people surveyed said they were buying more treats this year, with custard tarts, éclairs and cappuccino mousse topping the list of bestselling desserts.
Reducing the amount of food waste is also a priority for many people, with nearly two thirds of those surveyed stating that they “feel guilty about food wastage”. In an effort to reduce costs and cut food waste, 39 per cent of people increased the use of their freezer this year.
“As customers’ budgets are squeezed, making sure you don’t waste the food you do buy will become more important,” Bailey said.
Households are also becoming more aware of the impact of what they eat on the climate, with 36 per cent of survey respondents stating that they are “extremely concerned” about climate change. Although price is still the driving force behind consumers’ choice of groceries, many are prepared to make changes to their shopping basket on environmental grounds.
Thirty-five per cent of people surveyed said that they were prepared to put products back if there was too much packaging. Bailey said creating sustainable partnerships would become important for food businesses as “consumers learn more about the cost of cheap food and its impact on the environment”.
Animal welfare and fair pay are also growing as ethical considerations.
Consumers have also been making changes to their tipple of choice. Sales of rum increased 107 per cent year-on-year, making the UK the third largest rum market in the world.
However, 30 per cent of the survey respondents said they had bought low- and no-alcohol drinks in the past 12 months.
23% are switching to supermarket-own brands
25% buy “yellow-sticker’’ products
25% write and stick to shopping list
39% increased the use of their freezer this year
21% switching from packaged to loose vegetables
27% are planning meals in advance to cut down on cost and waste
Waitrose shoppers survey shows fish heads and spam on the menu as belts tighten