Rising food prices due to inflation affect consumer eating habits, resulting in a shift in how people shop for and consume food.
Inflation is a significant issue for many Americans. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), even food prices are up more than 11.4% as of September 2022. As grocery prices have skyrocketed 13.5% since 2021, consumers are becoming more price-conscious and are opting for cheaper alternatives to their usual food choices. For example, market research firm IRI data found that consumers are buying more generic or store-brand products. They are also shifting towards less expensive plant-based diets as meat prices rise. Some consumers are even choosing to buy food in bulk or stock up on non-perishable items to save money in the long run.
Rising food prices are hard on all shoppers, but they have an adverse effect on low-income households and can exacerbate food insecurity. According to research from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 10.2% of households were food insecure in 2021, meaning that they lacked the ability to have consistent, nutritious food.
“If food prices continue to increase at a rate that outpaces increases in wages, that is the inevitable consequence,” Jayson Lusk, Head of the Agricultural Economics Department at Purdue University, told CNN. “The last time we had a big run-up in food insecurity rates was in the wake of the Great Recession.”
While these changes in eating habits may be a result of economic necessity, they also have positive environmental and health impacts. Choosing plant-based diets can reduce the carbon footprint of food production, and those who minimize food waste by utilizing leftovers can help mitigate the environmental impact of food disposal. Additionally, cooking at home and choosing more straightforward recipes can lead to healthier eating habits and less reliance on processed foods.