Grocery shopping is changing in South Africa

 ·24 May 2023

South Africans are cutting down on groceries amidst challenging economic conditions.

Stats SA will publish the latest Consumer Price Inflation numbers on Wednesday (24 May), with economists anticipating a slight drop to 6.9% from 7.1% in March.

Inflation has remained sticky at elevated levels, sitting outside the South African Reserve Bank’s target range of 3% to 6%. The main driver behind high inflation is food and non-alcoholic beverages, which are currently sitting above 14% inflation.

Because South Africans are  facing such high levels of food inflation, many have forced to reduce how much they spend on certain items.

TrendER/infoQuest, a South African online research company, asked 300 South Africans if they had cut back on grocery spending in the last six months, and which items got cut from their baskets.

47% of consumers said they had to cut back on snacks, biscuits, sweets and desserts. Alcoholic beverages saw a 42% drop, while meat, chicken and fish saw a 41% drop.

Cold drinks/beverages (39%) and dairy products (33%) completed the top five.

Fruit and vegetables (18%) and pasta/rice (15%) were the least affected categories; however, one in five consumers still said they reduced their spending in these categories.

How much South African consumers are cutting back on certain items can be found below:

Snacks, biscuits, sweets and desserts and alcoholic beverages decreased across all income categories.

Lower earners were likelier to cut back on certain categories such as meat/chicken/fish, dairy products and pasta/rice than higher-income respondents.

“Regardless of age and income, South African consumers are certainly feeling the financial pinch when it comes to feeding themselves and their families, with some significant spending shifts in various grocery categories,” Mogorosi Mashilo, MD of TrendER/infoQuest, said.

Load shedding pain 

Prior research from TrendER/infoQuest, showed that approximately three in four consumers were purchasing fewer groceries to reduce food waste, with load shedding affecting consumers’ fridges.

In addition, nearly 70% of respondents said they had to dramatically change the type of meals they prepare due to load shedding.

48% of respondents said they went out to eat more often as they could not cook due to load shedding.

Mashilo said that South Africans face increasing costs as they try to beat the effects of load shedding.

“This puts strain on the consumer in an already tough economic climate. Marketers also need to take note of the changes in consumer behaviour and shopping habits that are becoming more evident. All of these factors contribute to the ‘new normal’ of the South African consumer in an environment that appears to be here to stay for the foreseeable future,” Mashilo said.

Data on how South Africans are responding to load shedding can be found below:

Read: Good news for food prices in South Africa

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