Puerto Rican consumers spent an average of $500 a month on groceries, or 18% more than the average $422 spent last year, the Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution’s annual Consumer X-Ray revealed.
“Spending appears to be driven by an increase in the frequency of visits to supermarkets, which registered an average of eight visits per month compared to six last year, for an increase of 33%, according to the findings of the study commissioned by the trade group known as MIDA, in Spanish.
“Consumer X-Ray allows us to observe key indicators in consumer habits. We continue to provide our partners with relevant information that allows them to anticipate changes in behavior for the development of future strategies” said Manuel Reyes-Alfonso, executive vice president of MIDA.
This year’s Consumer X-Ray was carried out 100% virtually, with 1,360 participants responding to the survey online (75%) or over the phone (25%) from June 24 to Aug. 21, 2020, the trade group said. About 46% of the respondents participate in the government’s Nutritional Assistance Program, said Ferdysac Márquez, president of MIDA.
“As part of the demographics of the study, 56% of the respondents work in private, government or self-employed companies, with 34% retired or unemployed,” said Tatiana Irizarry, sales leader Caribbean, Nielsen Retail Intelligence, which calculated the results of the study.
“The remaining 10% is distributed among students, housewives and others. In terms of the socioeconomic level, 16% are in a high level, 54% in a medium level and 30% in a low socioeconomic level. Along these lines, 46% of those surveyed claimed to depend on NAP income to buy food, 3% of those surveyed became new users of NAP during the pandemic,” she said.
The data related to NAP beneficiaries are very similar to those provided by the Puerto Rico Family Department, which shows that as of Sept. 27, the program had 836,990 families with 1,505,093 participants throughout the island. For its part, the Census estimated the population on the island for 2020 around 3.4 million, which coincides with the fact that 46% of the population receives the aid.
Monthly visits to convenience stores and pharmacies increased by a factor of 3 (from 1.4 to 4.3) and by 6 (from 1 to 6.8), respectively. The results can be explained by considering the significant injection in NAP funds, which ended in September, the study concluded.
That finding is compounded by the closure of other types of businesses, as well as the limitations imposed on hotels, bars and restaurants, causing an increase in purchases and visits to supermarkets.
On the other hand, the report found that the adult population continues to grow and their dependence on their families continues to increase. Some 52% of respondents are 45 years or older and one in two respondents do the grocery shopping for their parents or in-laws.
“This finding is relevant to industry strategies and presents an enormous challenge to our public policy makers,” MIDA officials said.
The study shows that 95% of those surveyed stated they will increase or continue to buy locally produced food.
“This represents an opportunity for the local industry caused by the shortage and limitation of supply from abroad during the pandemic,” the group stated.
Despite the limitations imposed by the government, 3 out of 4 (77%) respondents claimed to have bought prepared food in the last month. Of those, 27% claim to have bought food prepared at the supermarket deli.
This implies that they are a prepared food alternative for the consumer and represent an interesting proposal to continue developing them, the study showed.
Unsurprisingly, the study revealed that the COVID-19 emergency accelerated the adoption of the use of the internet to buy food — 24% of those surveyed claimed to have used a digital platform to buy food, a 60% increase vs. 2019.
“Although this tool is still under development in Puerto Rico, consumer acceptance is evident,” MIDA officials said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed the importance of the means used to reach the consumer. The Consumer X-Ray showed that e-mail is the main form of communication from stores that the consumer favors, followed by social networks.
Manufacturers discount coupons continue to be used by 42% of those surveyed, who claim that “they will definitely continue to use them.”
Consumers have the greatest interest in receiving discount coupons on cleaning products, hair care and for the purchase of proteins, the study revealed.