Grocery items on the chopping block for cash-strapped South Africans

 ·24 Jul 2023

Amid the challenging cost-of-living crisis in 2023, many South Africans are looking at things they can cut back on to stretch their budgets, and the grocery basket is no exception.

According to DebtBusters’ second annual Money Stress Tracker, three out of four South Africans feel money stress, which has a serious effect on home and work life and on health.

The tracker looks at how financial stress affects other aspects of South African’s lives, with over 35,000 respondents to the 2023 survey, which is used as a representative sample of South African consumers who are not in debt counselling.

The report noted that short-term concerns were the main reason for stress, with half of respondents saying that running out of money before the month-end was their biggest concern, despite it decreasing from 52% in 2022 to 50% in 2023.

Almost a quarter of the respondents (21%) noted inflation and living costs as the main financial concern, while this was also the main concern for South Africans earning a monthly salary of between R20,000 and R35,000 (23%).

With the current tight economic conditions, South Africans have what they spend on groceries closely.

To get an idea of the categories that have been most impacted, TrendER/InfoQuest – an online research company – asked consumers which categories of groceries they have cut back on spending since the start of 2023 (over six months).

According to the survey, approximately one in two consumers have cut back on snacks, biscuits, sweets, and desserts, with alcoholic beverages and meat/chicken/fish in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Fruit and vegetables and pastas/rice are the least affected categories, although about one in five South Africans had reduced their spending on these categories.

The graph below highlights what grocery items South Africans cut back on.

The data presented above is in line with Stats SA’s latest inflation figures for South Africa, as Sugar, sweets, and desserts climbed from 11.9% in May to 16.4% in June 2023 – the highest reading for the category since June 2017.

Stats SA noted annual increases for brown sugar (up 17.4%), white sugar (up 17.1%) and chocolate slabs (up 16.2%).

In addition, the annual inflation rate for alcoholic beverages and tobacco increased from 5.9% in May to 6.1% in June.

Wine inflation grew from 9.1% in May to 9.4% in June, whilst beer inflation also rose from 4.7% to 5.5%.

Some good news for food

Annual inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages (NAB) slowed for the third month in a row, dropping from 11.9% in May to 11.0% in June, albeit still outside the target range.

While some categories saw an increase in prices, several foods and NAB components recorded lower inflation rates in June 2023.

Prices for oils and fats decreased for the tenth successive month, with the index dropping by 9.5% in the 12 months to June.

The average price of a 750 ml bottle of sunflower oil dropped from R43.97 price tag in June 2022 to R35.57 in June 2023.

Annual transport inflation also significantly dropped from 7.0% in May to 1.8% in June, which was mainly due to the softer fuel prices.

The fuel index also declined by 8.3% when comparing June 2023 compared to June 2022, with the monthly change also seeing a 3.1% decrease.

Read: Crisis for domestic workers in South Africa

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