One in five Brits are buying fewer fresh fruit and vegetables, and a third are buying less food altogether as a result of the cost of living crisis.
A new report from consumer research platform Attest, which surveyed 1,000 nationally representative UK consumers, has found that grocery inflation is significantly impacting the everyday diets of the country.
The price of food and drink has been a driver of inflation over the last few months. Attest’s UK Food & Beverage Report 2022 found that Brits are on average spending £67.56 on food a week now, compared with £59.16 six months ago.
Some of the biggest findings unveiled from the report were those related to access to healthy food – an issue that experts have been concerned with since the onset of the crisis.
Alongside buying fewer fruit and vegetables, more than half of consumers surveyed said they were switching to cheaper foods.
With cheaper foods tending to be more processed, less nutritious and made with lower-quality ingredients, the report warned inflation was making a bad situation worse, given that nearly two million people in the UK are already undernourished.
This said, the report also found that other cost-cutting measures could in theory be benefitting public health. In particular, those surveyed said they were cutting back on buying alcohol (57%) and pricey convenience foods (42%).
Limiting such purchases means consumers are avoiding the negative health consequences of drinking too much and the processing and preservatives associated with ‘grab-and-go’ packaged foods.
Outside of shopping habits, the report also showed that more Brits are ignoring expiry and ‘use by’ dates on products, as a way to make their food go further.
Some 67% said they eat food after their expiration date, with almost one in five saying this is a new habit.
Consumers using their judgement when deciding whether to eat an ‘expired’ product chimes with recent industry actions to remove ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates from many products in stores.
Though this practice could help limit the amount of uneaten food, the report found that food waste remains a pressing reality for many households, as consumers are still throwing out an average of 2.45 unconsumed or partially consumed food products every week.
Younger consumers are apparently the least efficient with their food, with only 9% of 18-24-year-olds reporting that they don’t throw away any edible waste in a week.
The pervasive problem of food waste has prompted organisations into action – Sainsbury’s announced this week the launch of its Sainsfreeze concept store, which will educate shoppers on how to use their freezer to lengthen the life of food they would otherwise throw away.
Speaking on the results of the UK Food & Beverage Report 2022, Attest CEO and Founder Jeremy King, said: “The Attest research shows that the British consumer has been backed into a corner and forced to adapt during this cost of living crisis.
“Surprising new behaviours, like cutting back on alcohol and turning a blind eye to expiry and ‘use-by’ dates, highlight just how willing people are to make drastic lifestyle changes to cut costs.”
Understand what rising inflation means for the food industry in this episode of the Food Matters Live Podcast: