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IRI Consumer Connect Survey Finds 2018 Off to Slow Start, but Predictions for Year Are Favorable

Consumers Carry Conservative Spending Habits Into Q1 2018; CPG Industry Begins New Year With Low-Level Growth

CHICAGO — May 22, 2018 — It would seem that stable inflation, low unemployment and the recent tax cuts would have consumers opening their wallets more. However, the latest IRI Consumer Connect™ survey, released today, finds that consumers’ financial outlook has remained virtually unchanged during the past year. This conservative mindset has contributed to the CPG industry getting off to a slow start in 2018, but predictions for the remainder of the year are favorable. To get a closer look at the most recent food and beverage trends for the beginning of the year, IRI also released “Early View 2018.”

“The Tax Cut and Jobs Act was passed at the end of 2017, and the expectation was that extra income from lower withholdings would spur spending,” said Susan Viamari, vice president of Thought Leadership for IRI. “Only 19 percent of consumers we surveyed said they expect to spend more as a result of the tax cut, so the CPG industry should not expect to be seeing a major boost. During the first quarter, the CPG industry saw low-level growth, with price increases driving dollar sales growth and edibles faring slightly better than the industry as a whole. The good news is that economic expectations for the remainder of the year are positive. We found that consumers want food and beverage solutions that will help them advance their nutritional goals, and they are willing to pay for the extra benefits. CPG marketers can really drive growth of premium products if they truly understand what is most important to consumers.”

Consumers remain shaky about financial health

Results from the Q1 2018 IRI Consumer Connect survey reveal that there has been essentially no change in consumers’ financial outlook during the past year. For instance, 44 percent of consumers said their household finances are strained in Q1 2018, compared to 45 percent in Q1 2017. And 29 percent of consumers are having difficulty affording needed groceries in Q1 2018, compared to the exact same number in Q1 2017. Finally, 47 percent are making sacrifices to make ends meet in Q1 2018, compared to 50 percent in Q1 2017.

To ease their struggles, shoppers are embracing a wide range of strategies, including comparison shopping, brand switching and price shopping. Among the most prevalent strategies (total, millennials, Generation X, baby boomers, seniors):

  • Buy private label options: 85%, 91%, 91%, 83%, 79%
  • Try new, lower-priced brands: 74%, 85%, 82%, 75%, 57%

Food and beverage trends

While leading the way in CPG industry growth, the edibles sector only saw modest monthly dollar sales change (3.0 percent, 2.0 percent, 2.3 percent, respectively) and monthly unit sales change (1.3 percent, 0.8 percent , 1.1 percent) during the first three months of 2018. All regions across the United States showed positive growth in edibles. Leading the way were the West, which increased sales by 3.5 percent, and the Southeast, which increased by 3.2 percent, for the 13 weeks ending March 25, 2018.

Beverages — both alcoholic and nonalcoholic — and deli cheese were top-performing departments during the first quarter. In the perimeter of the store, pound sales fell 1.8 percent, but dollar sales increased 1.4 percent compared to the prior year. Deli cheese is the only category that saw positive pound growth (+0.6 percent). Deli prepared (-6.8 percent), deli meat (-1.4 percent), produce (-1.4 percent), meat (-1.3 percent) and seafood (-0.5 percent) all saw pound sales decrease.

Edible spending has been volatile, but largely positive across all income segments during the past year. Hispanic shopper spending has lagged behind other populations, and younger millennials spending has stood out compared to other generations, especially seniors, who struggled in Q1 2018.                           

Sunnier outlook ahead

The U.S. economic outlook is healthy for the remainder of 2018. Key indicators point to GDP growth surpassing 5 percent for the first time in five years, and the unemployment rate is expected to end the year at 3.8 percent.

For the CPG industry, premium products offer opportunity to drive basket and margin growth. In fact, 25 percent of consumers say they expect to buy more premium products in the next six months. There is an even greater opportunity with wealthier households. Thirty-five percent of households earning $100,000 and more say they will spend more on premium products this year.

“Thirty-six percent of consumers say they will spend more money on products that offer benefits beyond basic nutrition,” said Viamari. “And 29 percent will spend more on natural and organic solutions. So know your customers inside and out, and tailor your offerings to meet their needs. By personalizing your products and messaging, you will hit the right note with consumers, encouraging them to open their wallets in support of your brands.”

IRI Consumer Connect Video

For video highlights from the Consumer Connect survey and Early View 2018 Food & Beverage Trends, please visit:

About the IRI Consumer Connect Survey

IRI provides new survey results at the end of each calendar quarter covering shoppers’ behaviors and attitudes as they directly relate to their strategies for learning about, purchasing and utilizing CPG and health care products, as well as information regarding perceptions of economic conditions and their ability to provide for their families. For more information about customizing the research for a particular category or industry, please contact

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IRI fundamentally believes that delivering differentiated growth for clients requires deep, highly integrated partnering with a variety of best-of-breed companies. As such, IRI works closely with a broad range of industry leaders across multiple industries and sectors to create innovative joint solutions, services and access to capabilities to help its clients more effectively collaborate and compete in their various markets, and exceed their growth objectives. IRI is committed to its partnership philosophy and continues to actively enhance its open ecosystem of partners through alliances, joint ventures, acquisitions and affiliations. The IRI Partner Ecosystem includes such leading companies as 84.51°, Adobe, The Boston Consulting Group, comScore, Data Plus Math, Experian, GfK, Gigwalk, Ipsos, Mastercard Advisors, MaxPoint, Omnicom, Oracle, Pinterest, Research Now, Simulmedia, SPINS, Survey Sampling International, Univision, Viant, Yieldbot and others.

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IRI is a leading provider of big data, predictive analytics and forward-looking insights that help CPG, OTC health care organizations, retailers and media companies to grow their businesses. With the largest repository of purchase, media, social, causal and loyalty data, all integrated on an on-demand, cloud-based technology platform, IRI helps to guide its more than 5,000 clients around the world in their quests to remain relentlessly relevant, capture market share, connect with consumers and deliver market-leading growth. A confluence of major external events — a revolution in consumer buying, big data coming into its own, advanced analytics and automated consumer activation — is leading to a seismic shift in drivers of success in all industries. Ensure that your business can leverage data at

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