Consumers’ healthy-eating choices wane as cost of living bites

IPA TouchPoints 2022 Data

The number of adults saying they are coping on their current salary has fallen 5.5% since pre-2020 lockdown, with only half of young adults and just under two-thirds of women saying they are coping on their current income. Meanwhile, the number of adults preferring to eat organic food has fallen by almost a third in early 2022 particularly among younger generations and women, and the number of all adults preferring not to buy food that has been genetically modified has dropped by almost 40%.

These are just some of the arresting stats from the new IPA TouchPoints 2022 data set, released today (28 June 2022) and carried out between January-March 2022, on a nationally representative sample of c3,000 GB adults (aged 15+).

While the full IPA TouchPoints 2022 data set measures a range of daily lifestyle choices and media habits of the Great British public, 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.

Cost of living bites

Number of all adults saying they are coping on their current salary falls 5.5% since pre-2020 lockdown, with only half of young adults and just under two-thirds of women say they are coping on their current income

The number of all adults that say they are coping on their current income has fallen 5.5% from pre-lockdown 2020 to the first quarter of this year, from 67.4% to 63.7%. This drop is more marked for women, down by -7.8 vs down -3.1% for men (61.6% vs 66.0% respectively). The percentage drop of -9.5% in those saying they are coping on their current income is also far higher for the younger generation aged 15-34 (51.7%) and the 35-54s recording a -7.4% drop (59.7%) than the older generations of 55+ at -0.51% (77.8%).

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 35-54-year-olds since pre-lockdown 2020

The number of adults that state that they feel their level of debt will increase in the next few years has increased by 33.7% from 20.8% in pre-lockdown 2020 to 27.8% in early 2022. This rise is most marked among the older generations, rising 50.5% for 35-54 year olds (from 20.6% to 31%) and for +55 year olds where the percentage grew 47.5% (from 10.1% to 14.9%). Meanwhile while the percentage change is least for the younger generation (15-34s) at 16% between pre-lockdown 2020 and early 2022, the percentage of the younger generation that says they feel their level of debt will increase is the highest at 39.9% in 2022 (vs 34.4% in pre lockdown 2020). In terms of gender, slightly more men than women feel their level of debt with increase (men 28.8% vs 26.8% for women).

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

The number of adults who are increasingly aware of the price of goods and services has also increased, by 8.7% between pre-lockdown 2020 and the beginning of this year (78.0% vs 84.8%). While there is no significant difference in this awareness among genders, there is however a marked difference in the awareness of price between the younger and older generations: there is an increase of 4.9% among those aged 15-34, this leaps to an 11.8% increase in awareness among those aged 35-54, and to a 9.7% increase for those aged 55+.

Number of adults feeling confident about the economy falls by half, with women far less confident than men

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).

Meanwhile, healthy food choices wane

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

The number of adults preferring not to buy GM-modified food has fallen -38.7% from 48.1% to 29.5%. This drop is even greater for the younger generation of 15-34s, falling -50% from 37% to 18.5%. 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.

Number of adults preferring to eat organic food falls by almost a third in early 2022, particularly among younger generations and women

The number of all adults stating that they prefer to eat organic food has fallen by almost a third between pre-lockdown 2020 to the first few months of 2022, falling -27.8% from 15.1% to 10.9%. This drop is highest among the younger generation (15-34) 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%).

Number of adults who state they always read the labels on packaging before they buy food falls by almost a quarter

The number of all adults who are checking the food packaging ahead of purchase has 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 35-54 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%).

Commenting on the findings

Says Belinda Beeftink, Research Director, IPA:

"While the IPA TouchPoints data set can provide in-depth stats on a range of consumers’ daily habits and media usage, we felt that with the cost of living weighing increasingly heavily on people’s minds and lives, it would be insightful to look at this area in more detail and the knock-on this may have on other areas of life.

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.

Belinda Beeftink, Research Director, IPA

"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 comms activity on asserting value for money, on staples vs luxury items and on being seen to be in tune and supportive of their consumers at this tough time."

Commenting on the broader IPA TouchPoints 2022 dataset IPA President Julian Douglas said:

"The past few years have been extraordinary with the pandemic affecting every corner of our lives. And now we have a cost of living crisis, throwing us into further disarray. Making sense of this, as advertisers, agencies and individuals has become even more challenging."

This is where TouchPoints is our guiding light. Recognised as one of the premier sources of strategic media planning data, it is able to show us – with context and perspective - what we, the Great British population, is thinking, feeling and doing and how our everyday lives are changing.

Julian Douglas, IPA President

Watch the full 2022 IPA TouchPoints launch

IPA TouchPoints 2022 from The IPA on Vimeo.

Find out more about TouchPoints
Last updated 06 July 2022