The San Juan Daily Star
Worried about the economy, the average consumer changes purchasing strategies
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The Star
The average consumer in Puerto Rico is worrying more than ever about the economy, according to “Consumer X-ray – Navigating the Perfect Storm,” a report on the results of a survey conducted by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA by its Spanish acronym), which interviewed 1,350 people who make purchasing decisions in their homes around the island to get a sense of what, when and how customers go to the market and what they buy.
The study, conducted between March and April, compares its data to that of 2012 and shows a dramatic increase in consumer worries in all areas of the economy.
Taking into consideration factors such as recession, inflation, demographic changes, the recent war in Ukraine, the state of the supply chain, federal aid, and Nutritional Assistance Program funds (PAN by its Spanish acronym), the hike in interest rates takes first place in the lists of economic worries for the consumer (77% vs. 9% in 2012), followed closely by terrorist attacks (79% vs. 10%), poverty (78% vs. 15%) and inflation (84% vs. 15%.) Gas prices (93% vs. 45% in 2012) are also a source of worry.
“More than ever, the industry needs to know what the consumer thinks and how they are reacting to these challenges,” said Dr. Ferdysac Márquez, president of MIDA.
The executive vice president of MIDA, Manuel Reyes Alfonso, said “these data reflect a consumer dramatically more pessimistic and distressed about economic issues than 10 years ago, which contrasts with the discourse of some of our public officials regarding the economy.”
According to the study entrusted to Lighthouse Strategies, the average consumer spends $463 each month on food and household products, a 21% increase vs. 2021. The numbers reflect that consumers stopped purchasing beef at a rate of 51%, favoring cheaper kinds of protein, and 78% of those surveyed started cooking at home more, and purchased fewer products (75%), checked prices before going to the market (72%), and bought generic brand products (66%) instead of name brand.
Interestingly, the study reflected that people are more mindful of what they eat, strengthening the organic food market. Richard Valdés, president of the study’s committee, said it shows that customers are older, more informed, and health-conscious.
The “Consumer X-ray” study also reflected that purchasing food in pharmacies took a nosedive, going from 12% in 2021 to 1% in 2022, which shows that not only are people making more price comparisons, but also that pharmacies are offering less fresh produce than before and their prices are being taken into consideration.
The online purchasing trend is more vital than ever as a result of the pandemic, according to the study. People got accustomed to buying online, and of 650 people surveyed through a digital survey conducted by the A&Answers division of Arteaga & Arteaga, 48% rely on home delivery of goods, and 27% pick up their purchases at the supermarket. On what’s being purchased, 53% of consumers are buying non-prepared foods, 48% are buying household products, and 44% alcoholic beverages. The beer market was still the big favorite among the consumers surveyed. In all categories, people are getting more comfortable with online shopping than with going to brick-and-mortar stores.
The research results will be presented on Aug. 25 at 9:30 a.m. at the Convention Center in Miramar as part of MIDA’s Conference and Food Show 2022.