Consumers showed tremendous uncertainty, almost a collective split personality, in the latest monthly national consumer survey from Oklahoma State University (FooDS).
On the one hand, their willingness to pay for a variety of food items that includes ground beef and steak went up 7% December to January. In the case of ground beef and steak, they were willing to pay more in January 2017 than the previous January 2016. They also increased eating expenditures away from home by 4.66% and decreased expenditures eating at home. These two things suggest an increase in consumer confidence, which was also noted to have risen in the recent Michigan consumer confidence survey -- an combination of three indexes which rated consumer confidence this January at increases of 5.7% to 7.5% higher than the rating one year earlier.
On the other hand, they expect meat prices to increase, they plan to buy more chicken, less pork and about the same amount of ground beef. They also plan to eat out less. These attitudes are typical of consumers uncertain about the future.
It also suggests no information is reaching them about the large supplies of beef, chicken and pork steadily swamping the marketplace and expectations those will drive down prices from production through retail. Beef Producer has continued to report on this for producers from multiple sources, and one would think the information is generally available to consumers. See Wall of meat and Supply-heavy protein markets.
Consumers also said price, safety and taste remained their most important values when purchasing food in January. Consumers reported that their main challenge was "finding affordable foods that fit within my budget," followed by "avoiding certain nutrients or ingredients."
Consumers also continued to put salmonella, E. coli and farm animal welfare near the top of their lists.
Overall, researchers said despite small changes, consumers’ food values remained similar to those stated in previous months. You can read the survey results here.
FooDS is an acronym for Food Demand Survey and is a monthly on-line survey with a sample size of at least 1,000 people, weighted to match the US population in terms of age, gender, education and region of residence.