Freddie Hernández, president of MIDA's 2020 Consumer Radiography Committee, announced details of the study today, which will be released in more detail in three virtual sessions on October 15, 22 and 29. (Supplied)
The average monthly expenditure of consumers in Puerto Rico on food and household products increased this year and reached its highest point in the last six years, according to the most recent Consumer Radiography, a study released today by the Chamber Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution (MIDA).
The study shows other changes in consumer habits that have taken place during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, such as an increase in visits to supermarkets and in the number of people who make purchases online.
With the closure of schools and different types of businesses, as well as the proliferation of remote work and distance classes, the purchase of food for the home increased, according to Freddie Hernández, president of the 2020 Consumer Radiography Committee of MIDA .
“The population of the country has not increased, the minimum wage or household income, it is that there has been a movement of institutional and commercial consumption to the home,” explained Hernández, alluding to the fact that, by spending more time at home, the People cut back on their meals at restaurants, hotels, and other businesses.
“By increasing consumption at home, we are going to register an increase in the average monthly expenditure in Puerto Rico,” said Hernández. It revealed that this average monthly expense stood at $ 500 per month this year, which constitutes an increase of 18% compared to the average of $ 422 in 2019. It is also the highest average monthly expense in the last six years, a period in which the figure remained below $ 460.
According to Hernández, another factor influencing this increase is that the federal government increased the amount of funds allocated to the Nutrition Assistance Program (PAN) until September, an initiative that experienced a 16% increase in the number of beneficiaries as a result of the pandemic.
Manuel Reyes, executive vice president of MIDA, ruled out that the rise in price experienced by certain products during the health emergency was a determining factor in the increase in consumer spending. “Yes, I can validate that part of this is due to a price increase, but it is not large for two reasons: one, that most of the time prices have been frozen by the DACO (Department of Consumer Affairs), and two, in the last data of the Consumer Price Index, there was an increase, but it is minimal compared to the increase that there was in the Price Index in the United States ”, he argued.
On the other hand, the study revealed an increase in the frequency of visits to supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores of gas stations to buy food, even when the population is advised to reduce trips from home to avoid contagion. The biggest rise was experienced by pharmacies, where the average visits per month went from one in 2019 to 6.8 in 2020. They were followed by supermarkets, which went from 5.8 to 7.9 visits in the same period. At gas stations, visits were 1.35 per month in 2019 and 4.3 this year.
The increase in visits to stores was not impacted by online purchases, which also experienced a rise of nine percentage points in one year. In 2019, 15% of study participants reported having bought unprepared food, drinks or household products online, a figure that was 24% this year.
“Online purchases are here to stay and some consumers even make purchases from the United States so that their relatives here on the island do not have to expose themselves (to a possible contagion),” Hernández said.
In fact, according to the Consumer X-ray, 51% of consumers make purchases for their parents or in-laws, both in person and online, which reflects that there is a tendency to help older adults to buy their food during the pandemic .
According to Reyes, another trend that has been seen this year is that consumers, once inside the supermarket, if they do not get the product or brand they want, they choose to buy a substitute product instead of going to another establishment to look for it. Therefore, he understands that the practice of exposing oneself as little as possible to contagion is influencing purchase decisions. “This can represent an opportunity for local products to gain consumer loyalty,” he said, given the fact that patio products gained presence in supermarkets after farmers were unable to sell their crops to restaurants and hotels that closed. or whose clientele dwindled considerably.
In this regard, the study revealed that, during the pandemic, 95% of consumers buy products made in Puerto Rico with equal or greater regularity.
On the other hand, the purchase of prepared foods increased this year, when 77% of the study participants said they had bought prepared meals in the last month, which represents an increase of 11 percentage points in contrast to 66% who said the same. same in 2019. Of those who answered in the affirmative this year, 27% purchased food prepared in a deli in a supermarket, which represents an opportunity for these businesses.
The 2020 Consumer Radiography was conducted by the Nielsen firm through 1,360 interviews conducted during June and August 2020, of which 75% were done online and 25% were answered by phone. The study was complemented by a qualitative phase of ten virtual interviews, reported Tatiana Irizarry, Caribbean sales leader for Nielsen's Retail Intelligence.