Oh, they're noticing: Some 90% of shoppers polled by market researcher IRI last month said they're seeing higher prices at the grocery store, and almost half of shoppers (48%) said prices lately are much higher.
Moreover, the vast majority of those who are noticing rising grocery prices are concerned about the upward trajectory. Just more than half of consumers who have observed higher grocery prices said they're somewhat concerned about inflationary conditions, while 42% said they're extremely concerned, IRI and 210 Analytics reported Thursday, based on data from IRI's November primary shopper survey.
Meat, produce and dairy led the grocery categories where shoppers said they've most noticed higher prices. And as some industry watchers have predicted, there are signs that those price increases are starting to affect consumer behaviors: 61% of shoppers in IRI's survey said they've changed their grocery selections in response to higher prices, with deal-seeking (including stocking up), cutting back on nonessentials and switching to store-brand products leading shoppers' cost-control measures.
Adding to frustrations at the grocery store are stockouts, which more than one-third of consumers said they had experienced on their most recent grocery trip. Toilet paper, canned goods, carbonated soft drinks, paper towels and milk topped the list of items that shoppers said they had trouble finding.
Among those who couldn't find what they were looking for, 39% said they took their money elsewhere to get what they wanted. A smaller share, 28%, opted for a different brand or variety of the item they sought, and around the same share (29%) skipped the purchase altogether. One in 10 went online to buy the item from a different store.
The data "[underscores] the significant impact of out-of-stocks on sales," 210 Analytics President Anne-Marie Roerink wrote in the survey report.
One notable change—at least, among those with a little ingredient flexibility—is a growing willingness to switch item formats in the face of an out-of-stock, according to Joe Watson of the Produce Marketing Association (soon to be the International Fresh Produce Association), which collaborated on the report. "Supply chain challenges continue to affect fresh produce pricing and availability," said Watson, PMA's VP of membership and engagement. "Fresh produce certainly is not alone in this, but shoppers are also more fluid than I have ever seen before in switching between fresh, frozen and shelf-stable, which means inflation and promotional levels in those other areas can affect the fresh purchase more than ever."
For foods and beverages throughout the store, dollar sales are up 1.3% for the first 11 months of 2021 vs. the same period in 2020 and up 15.6% on a two-year stack. Unit sales, however, were down 3.5% through November vs. the year-ago period, according to IRI.