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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Consumer survey: Purchase of cisterns & generators on the rise

More people in Puerto Rico are purchasing an electrical generator and/or a water cistern for their home, a new survey by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution has found. “The trend is that little by little we are using our budget to buy things beyond food and what has been our day-to-day life,” the chairman of the entity’s Consumer Survey Committee said.

By The Star Staff

The lack of trust in water and electricity utilities in Puerto Rico has led consumers to invest in equipment that replaces that need, according to the Consumer Survey 2024 study by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA by its Spanish acronym).

“We’re talking about all the things outside of food that we have to have in order to survive or live in the situation that we’re living in,” said Richard Valdés, chairman of the Consumer Survey Committee at a press conference Tuesday. “And this is very interesting, because from last year to this year, the electrical generator [purchase rate] went up from 48 percent to 52 percent. In other words, the trend is that little by little we are using our budget to buy things beyond food and what has been our day-to-day life.”

In the study, conducted through 1,350 house-to-house interviews, in the island’s eight census regions, it was found that 37% (up from 31% last year) purchased a cistern, 19% (up from 17% last year) bought a solar heater and 15% (up from 13%) invested in solar panels and batteries.

“We are preparing ourselves as consumers to be able to survive in a situation like the one we are experiencing in Puerto Rico,” he added.

The study reveals that 92% of respondents prepare food at home and of those, 50% do so for several days.

“Cooking at home is still cheaper [than eating out],” MIDA Vice President Manuel Reyes Alfonso said. “Not only is it cheaper, but you have more alternatives in general terms by varying what goes in the grocery basket.”

Another trend revealed by the study, especially in millennials (29%) and Generation Zers (35%), is that they replace some of their meals with a snack. It was not measured whether this has to do with a trend such as the so-called “fasting,” or as an alternative for saving money.

“It’s definitely an area that we all have to look at, because the percentage of people who substitute a meal for a snack is high,” Reyes Alfonso said. “We don’t know the reasons for that and we’re going to be considering it. Because you have to know if it’s due to economic factors or dieting.”

Another finding of the study is that the average monthly spending on food purchases remained similar to 2023 spending, with $452 per month on food purchases in 2024 versus $453 in the previous year.

Reyes Alfonso noted that despite inflation, spending remains the same due to Nutritional Assistance Program -- known on the island by its Spanish acronym, PAN -- funds, the increase in consumer debt levels and a drop in product imports to pre-pandemic levels.

The study also concludes that 47% of the participants take items out of the shopping cart because “the kids don’t like them,” and 28% of the respondents said they will always do the shopping “with the kids in mind.”

Meats are the most purchased product on a regular basis (from 64 to 74%) but, in the same way, it is one of the main items that is taken out of budget, with 43% of respondents indicating as much versus 25% in 2023.

“The consumer is exhibiting patterns that perhaps were not so marked before, or we did not see them,” said Diana Rodríguez Figueroa, president of market research firm Lighthouse Strategies. “And it’s precisely what they do when they get to the end of the leash [of paying]. How is it that they organize these products on the leash, and what do they do if the money isn’t there for them?”

Priorities in food purchases are meats, rice, bread, eggs, grains, vegetables, cheese, ham, coffee and UHT milk. Chicken and fresh milk showed a 5% drop in purchases in one year.

The findings of Consumer Survey 2024 will be presented on Thursday, June 13 as part of the program of activities at the MIDA Conference & Food Show 2024 at Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in Isla Grande.

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