June 2011 Prepared Foods-- The past few years have seen consumers embrace new shopping routines, patterns and behaviors in efforts to stretch their dollar. Many have turned to coupons, stocked up on sale items and switched to private label foods. The NPD Group notes those tactics show no signs of slowing, particularly as higher fuel prices impact not only the cost of gasoline, but also trickle down to the price of food.

“During the recession, consumers adopted thriftier spending behaviors, and as time went on, they became comfortable with making concessions and getting by with less,” explains Dori Hickey, director of product development at NPD and author of What’s Next on the Road to Recovery. “At the height of the recession, consumers said they used coupons more, were stocking up on sale items, buying more private labels and shopping at discount stores more, among other money-saving strategies. With food prices rising and consumers experienced at getting the most from their food dollars, consumers are going to be increasing these types of behaviors once again.”

NPD’s Economy Tracker evaluates consumer sentiment about the economy and spending. Its April 2011 analysis finds 21.9% of consumers expect to increase their spending on groceries in upcoming months, a rise from the 16.6% indicating the same as recently as February 2011. Some 74% of April’s respondents “strongly agreed that they expect coupons and special deals will be much more important in deciding what to buy.” Some 53% indicated they would be buying in bulk. pf