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Shoppers giving up on organic and healthy foods to cope with cost of living, study shows

·3-min read
Cost of living: The number of people preferring to eat organic food declined sharply in the first three months of the year. Photo: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty
Cost of living: The number of people preferring to eat organic food declined sharply in the first three months of the year. Photo: Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty

A recent study has laid bare the impact of price rises on consumers as the number of people preferring to eat organic food fell by nearly a third in early 2022 as the cost of living surged.

Figures from the IPA TouchPoints 2022 data set, released on Tuesday, showed the number of adults opting not to buy food that has been genetically modified has dropped by almost 40%.

The research, carried out between January and March this year, indicates a strong correlation between people’s squeezed budgets and their less healthy food choices after decades high inflation caused unprecedented price rises.

According to the report, people preferring to eat organic food declined sharply in the first three months of the year, particularly among younger generations and women, falling from 15.1% to 10.9%.

It found the number of consumers who reported they are coping on their current salary fell by 5.5% from 67.4% to 63.7% since pre-pandemic 2020, with only half of young adults saying they are coping on their income.

The drop was most notable for women, down by 7.8% compared to a 3.1% decline for men at 61.6% vs 66.0% respectively.

Read more: UK’s income gap exposes tale of two Britains

The 9.5% fall in those saying they are coping on their current income was also higher for the younger generation aged 15 to 34 (51.7%), while those aged 35 to 54 recorded a 7.4% drop (59.7%), with the older generation aged over 55 at -0.51% (77.8%).

"The past few years have been extraordinary with the pandemic affecting every corner of our lives," said IPA president Julian Douglas. "And now we have a cost of living crisis, throwing us into further disarray."

Over a quarter of adults and 40% of the younger generation felt their level of debt will increase in the next few years, with this figure rising by over 50% for 35- to 54-year-olds from 20.8% in pre-lockdown 2020 to 27.8% in early 2022.

The number of all adults feeling confident about the economy has halved between the start of 2022 and pre-lockdown 2020, with women far less confident than men.

Read more: UK at risk of recession as cost of living and inflation surge

Belinda Beeftink, research director at IPA, said: "What these new findings appear to show us is that even at the start of the year, with finances tightening, people are having to buy what they can afford rather than having the luxury of choice.

"We can only imagine with rising inflation levels and the clouds of a recession beginning to bubble up, that such stats will become bleaker. And so for any brands and their agencies navigating this — whether food — related or not, it may be prudent to focus their comms activity on asserting value for money, on staples vs luxury items and on being seen to be in tune and supportive of their consumers at this tough time."

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?

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