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59% of Puerto Rico consumers changed shopping habits due to power outages

Frequent power outages in Puerto Rico have prompted 59% of consumers surveyed in this year’s Consumer X-Ray to change their shopping habits.

The survey, commissioned to research firm Lighthouse Strategies by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA, in Spanish), involved 1,350 home-based respondents. It confirmed that among the people most affected are those with incomes of less than $25,000, Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN, in Spanish) beneficiaries and residents of the island’s Central-South Region.

Of the individuals affected by the blackouts, 62% responded that they now buy less each time they go food shopping, while 35% said they are now buying more nonperishable products, said Richard Valdés, chair of MIDA’s Consumer X-Ray committee.

MIDA President Joeyleen Quiñones said the findings underscore the importance that electrical service plays in the lives of consumers and businesses.

“MIDA joined other entities to formally object to [the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa’s)] Debt Adjustment Plan, and we urge our partners and consumers to do the same,” Quiñones said.

Regarding the average monthly expenses reported for food and household product purchases, respondents confirmed spending $453, a slight reduction compared to 2022, said Manuel Reyes-Alfonso, executive vice president of MIDA.

The trade group is analyzing the factors that may have had an impact on the stable or slightly lower spending, despite ongoing inflation.

Among these factors is the end of multiple emergency aid measures, which, in turn, is reflected in official data that point to a general reduction in savings and increased consumer debt. Similarly, the Economic Development and Commerce Department’s latest retail sales data suggest that although sales seem to be increasing, the growth is lagging behind inflation.

Physical stores prevail
Of those surveyed, only 19% responded that they have purchased on digital platforms for store pickup or home delivery in the last year. Of the more than 1,000 people who answered that they do not buy on digital platforms for store pickup or home delivery, 50% said they prefer to see the product before buying it.

“Despite that, the issue of online purchases is of great interest to the industry, which is why this year MIDA joined Arteaga & Arteaga to carry out the ‘The Connected Consumer’ digital survey, with an additional sample and that will be unveiled June 30,” Reyes-Alfonso said.

Balancing quality and price
“For the first time in the Consumer X-Ray, and to further delve into the minds of our consumers, we asked survey participants to tell us what type of shopper they consider themselves to be,” said Diana Rodríguez, president of Lighthouse Strategies.

“It is noteworthy to mention that 56% of those surveyed consider themselves buyers who strike a balance between quality and price,” she said.

However, she said that, as was expected, the price of goods affected many other decisions. For example, 49% of respondents said they have stopped buying items due to price increases, up from 41% last year.

For instance, 44% indicated that they had stopped buying eggs due to the price increase, which was a consequence of the bird flu and other factors that have already begun to stabilize. Purchasing meat has also been affected, with 32% of consumers indicating they have cut their purchases, but this represents an improvement compared to 2022, she added.

Grocery stores gain ground in pet food, but lose in household products
This year, the Consumer X-Ray study included questions related to the types of pets in the home and the food that consumers buy for them. Of the respondents who reported having pets, 85% indicated having a dog, versus 29% having a cat. Other pets mentioned included birds (8%), fish (5%) and rabbits (4%).

“In this area of pet food, the grocery store is the main place to buy the product, with 36% of consumers indicating that it is their main go-to place, and 29% use it as a secondary source,” Valdés said.

“In contrast, the number of people who do not buy household products in the same place as their food rose from 38% in 2022 to 44% in 2023. More specifically, those who buy them in the grocery store fell from 38% in 2022 to 27% in 2023,” added Valdés.

Consumers prefer beer
As for the alcoholic beverages segment, Rodríguez said that “consumers once again indicated they favored beer, with 35%, followed by rum with 17%, vodka 15%, and whiskey 14%. In the case of wine, it was 10%.”

The full results of the Consumer X-Ray will be presented on June 29, as part of the 2023 MIDA Conference & Food Show. The conference is the main food industry event in Puerto Rico, featuring 450 local and international exhibitors, and runs through July 1, at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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