Healthy eating off the menu as Brits tighten their belts

healthy2The cost of living crisis has already seen Brits cut back on everything from treats and eating out to clothing and groceries, but it seems it also risks the nation’s long term health with the financial crunch forcing under the cosh consumers to ditch healthy eating choices, too.

Meanwhile, only half of young adults and just under two thirds of women say they are coping on their current income.

These are just some of the stark findings from the new IPA TouchPoints 2022 data set, released this week and carried out between January and March 2022, on a nationally representative sample of around 3,000 British adults (aged 15+).

While the full IPA TouchPoints 2022 data set measures a range of daily lifestyle choices and media habits of the British consumers, looking specifically at the data related to cost of living and food purchasing decision-making, there is clear indication of a strong correlation between consumers’ squeezed budgets and their less healthy food choices.

Number of all adults preferring not to buy food that has been genetically modified drops by almost 40%, and by half for 15-to 34-year-olds.

By gender, women prefer not to buy GM-modified food more than men at 34.0% vs 24.8%, although both genders have seen a relatively equal percentage fall in these figures between this year and pre-lockdown 2020 figures.

The number of adults preferring to eat organic food fell by almost a third in early 2022 particularly among younger generations and women, down -27.8% from 15.1% to 10.9%.

This drop is highest among the younger generation (15 to 34) where it has fallen by -37.5% from 16% to 10%, and for women where it has fallen -32.1% (at 11.2%) vs men where the fall is -22.5% (measuring 10.7%).

The number of all adults who are checking the food packaging ahead of purchase has also decreased, by almost a quarter from 30.8% in pre-lockdown 2020 to 23.8% in the first quarter of this year.

This drop is highest, at -27.2% for the mid-generation level of 35 to 54 year olds, falling from 29.4% to 21.4%. The percentage drop in the number of men checking labels is higher than for women although overall numbers show more women check labels than men (27.6% vs 19.9%).

Meanwhile, the number of all adults who say they are coping on their current income has fallen from 67.4% to 63.7% from pre-lockdown 2020 to the first quarter of this year. This drop is more marked for women, down by -7.8 vs down -3.1% for men (61.6% vs 66.0% respectively).

Over a quarter of adults and 40% of the younger generation say they feel their level of debt will increase in the next few years, with this figure rising by over 50% for 35 to 54 year olds since pre-lockdown 2020.

Almost 85% of adults are aware of price of goods and services increasing, with awareness increasing by 11.8% for 35 to 54-year-olds.

Finally, the number of all adults feeling confident about the economy has fallen -49.8%, from 25.7% of all adults to 12.9% between the start of 2022 and pre- lockdown 2020. This figure is fairly constant between the different generations however women are less confident about the economy than men (10.6% of women vs 15.2% of men).

IPA research director Belinda Beeftink said: “What these new findings appear to show us is that even at the start of the year, with finances tightening, people are having to buy what they can afford rather than having the luxury of choice.

“We can only imagine with rising inflation levels and the clouds of a recession beginning to bubble up, that such stats will become bleaker.

“And so for any brands and their agencies navigating this – whether food-related or not, it may be prudent to focus their communications activity on asserting value for money, on staples versus luxury items and on being seen to be in tune and supportive of their consumers at this tough time.”

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