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Study: Puerto Rico consumer budgets compromised by debt, escalating prices

Puerto Rico consumers are buying less, making lists and leaving items behind in stores as part of their monthly journey to shop for food and other household items, according to the findings of the 2023 Consumer X-Ray study, released by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA, in Spanish).

The trade group commissioned the V2A Consulting firm to conduct some 1,350 in-person interviews earlier this year. The findings of the annual survey were revealed Thursday in front of an audience of around 2,000 professionals from Puerto Rico’s food industry under the motto of “Living the Consumer Shopping Experience.”

“If your electricity bill goes up, you must pay it, so instead of eating this, I replace it with something else. It’s a compromised budget,” said Herbert Torres of Supermercados Econo.

The data were presented following a “customer journey,” detailing what consumers do before going to the supermarket until they are inside the store: start, preparation, path and arrival.

Mario Rodríguez, from V2A Consulting, showed through data on income versus expenses that, “at the end of the day, the average consumer in Puerto Rico has a monthly deficit of more than $1,000.”

As part of the planning process, consumers look for store flyers — both print and digital — and often study more than one store before shopping.

About 64% of respondents check flyers from a minimum of two different stores when planning their purchase. Of them, 42% answered that they use both print and digital flyers, and 47% said they only check print ones. The store flyer appeared in the journey that consumers take when preparing to go to the supermarket, after 87% of respondents said they checked their pantry before shopping, and 73% asked household members whether they needed anything, the study showed.

More than half of those surveyed answered that a social network is the most used medium to plan their shopping trips. Social media surpassed television at 59% versus 31%, respectively.

However, when it came to purchasing decisions, local television prevailed, with 33% percent of respondents answering that it is the most influential medium when deciding food and non-food purchasing decisions, compared to 32% for social media.

In the search for a balance between quality and price, respondents visit three establishments on average to buy food. The battle between location and price as the reason for choosing an establishment was close, with 54% of those surveyed answering that they visit an establishment more frequently because of its location, versus 48% answering that price was more influential.

In the case of household products, those who said they do not buy food and household products in the same place, or 44% of respondents, visit an average of two establishments per month to purchase non-food household products.

Of the number of people who do not buy household goods at the same place as food, 68% responded that price was the main reason. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in the western region do not buy food and household products in the same place, the study showed.

Once in the store, 64% of those surveyed answered they regularly buy fresh or frozen meats. As a second article, 60% of respondents reported buying rice, and 42% regularly buy eggs.

Although 70% of those surveyed said they were not following a diet, of those who were, 41% opted for a low-carbohydrate diet. That diet was followed by a zero-added-sugar diet by 38% of respondents.

The preference for low-carb and zero-sugar diets comes at a historic moment in which the island is experiencing an aging population, Consumer X-Ray Committee Chair Richard Valdés said at the beginning of the presentation. At present, sales of adult diapers now exceed those of baby diapers.

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

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