CHICAGO — As bakers navigate the conditions of supply chain disruption, labor shortages have become a critical element. But as the Great Resignation impacts production, it’s also important for baking companies to understand the effect it has on purchasing trends as well.

Prices have gone up on the total ring at the store, but according to a recent study from IRI, bread products were about 10 items down on the list of the most noticeable products becoming more expensive. What’s more, it hasn’t been much of a detractor for the purchase.

With fewer people working and prices going up, it’s worth looking at the strategies behind consumer spending — or saving — and what’s keeping them in the grocery store aisles.

“It’s easy to assume that if someone’s not working, they have no money,” said Jonna Parker, team lead, IRI Fresh. “But there’s still money in the economy. People might be finding other means, like moving back in with their parents or doing things more on an as-needed basis. The idea that someone who no longer has a job is suddenly not able to spend is just not being evidenced in what we are seeing.”
Parker also attributed continuity of spending to engagement through assistance with programs like SNAP.

“We did a major study around SNAP shoppers,” Parker noted. “There was some interesting engagement, especially around fresh and perishable foods including baked goods.”
Food options for government assistance have been greatly expanded beyond canned goods, and that is becoming more apparent in shopper choices.

“When it comes to food choices, people have become quite savvy,” Parker observed.


"The idea that someone who no longer has a job is suddenly not able to spend is just not being evidenced in what we are seeing." —Jonna Parker | team lead | IRI Fresh


And then there are consumers who are not working and not receiving assistance but who are developing budget strategies to stretch their dollars.

“Maybe they’re not stopping at Starbucks on the way to their job at the plant because they’re at home now,” Parker said. “Instead, they buy a flat of muffins at a big-box store, which quadruples their ability to buy breakfast. Those spend choices are still there.”

Despite these drastic changes in workforce, the grocery store is a relatively good resource for people to stretch their budget, especially where occasions are concerned. Smaller and more affordable cake and dessert options in the perimeter allow for mid-size occasions. Last year, holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day emerged as holidays where people extended the celebration size ever so slightly to include a few extra family members.

“It’s not as great as getting the 100-person graduation party, but there are still probably about 20 of those smaller occasions throughout the year versus one graduation party,” Parker said.

People leaving the workforce are getting creative on how they continue their consumption, which means baking companies will need to follow suit in order to keep up with that demand.