Could reframing ‘food as medicine’ counter rising prices that are pushing healthier options out of reach?

A survey of more than 2,000 US adults conducted in July and released yesterday by Deloitte found nearly half (48%) of Americans find in-store grocery shopping more stressful this year than last. While this still falls short of the 54% who said the same during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, it is up 8% from last year.

Unlike two years ago when concern about spreading or catching disease, like COVID-19, was a top shopping stressor, now concern about food prices leads the way as reported by 53%, followed by 13% who cited a change in their overall personal financial situation as a cause for shopping stress, according to Deloitte’s new report, Fresh Food as Medicine for the Heartburn of High Prices. ​Threat of disease now comes in a distant third with 12% noting it is a cause for stress while shopping.

Consumer concern about price is so great that it is even crowding out other qualities that once commanded premiums and were on the rise pre-pandemic, including sustainability, locally-grown and non-GMO, all of which are down at least 12 percentage points from 2019, according to the report.

Concern about price is hitting fresh food particularly hard with the percentage of consumers willing to pay a premium for fresh plunging 9 percentage points year-over-year to 61%, according to Deloitte. It adds almost one in five shoppers are swapping fresh for frozen or other shelf-stable food for cost savings – a rate that goes up among lower-income and rural groups.

Other ways consumers are responding to higher prices include pulling back on spending with nearly half buying fewer expensive food items and 40% reducing their food waste so they need to buy less.

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