Home » Dunnhumby Reports Americans Perceive Food Inflation Higher Than Reality

Dunnhumby Reports Americans Perceive Food Inflation Higher Than Reality

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Dunnhumby, a global leader in customer data science, has released its findings from its two-year worldwide study of the impact of COVID-19 on customer attitudes and behavior across 23 countries.

The ninth wave of the dunnhumby “Consumer Pulse Survey” found that U.S. consumers are now more worried about rising food prices, the economy and their own personal finances than they are with getting COVID.

U.S. consumers surveyed reported that the food inflation rate now stands at 17.7 percent, when in actuality it stands at 7.4 percent, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This latest wave was conducted from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8, just past the peak of a major outbreak of COVID-19, driven by the Omicron variant.

“Americans’ belief that food prices are rising more than twice as fast as they actually are should concern retailers, manufacturers and the government alike,” said Grant Steadman, president for North America at dunnhumby. “We not only see this mismatch between sentiment and reality in the U.S., but also in every country we surveyed. Consumers are now more concerned with their finances and the country’s economy than they were five months ago. 

“We need to revise our thinking about how consumers consider inflation. Likely, we have not yet seen the full extent of how consumers will react to food price increases. This could diverge further, particularly if the security situation in Europe worsens and further impacts energy and commodity prices globally.”

Key findings from the study

  • Fifty-one percent of U.S. shoppers surveyed are concerned that their money doesn’t go as far as it used to due to rising prices, marking a 10 point increase since September 2021, and a 12 percent increase since May 2020. Eighty-three percent said food prices have gone up some and half say they have gone up by a lot.
  • Fifty-eight percent of U.S. consumers believe the economy is weak, a three point increase from September 2021, and the same percentage from February 2021. And 40 percent of consumers continue to report their own finances are weak, consistent with the prior two waves of the dunnhumby study in 2021.
  • Walmart was again cited for providing the best value for the money by 54 percent of respondents, an increase of 25 points from September 2021. Aldi (18 percent), Kroger (10 percent) and Amazon (10 percent) finished in the top three for best value.
  • Americans’ worry about the pandemic is at an all-time low at 13 percent and 20 points below consumers’ worry in Chile, the country with the highest worry index. The continued reduction in worry comes at the same time as more Americans than ever now know someone personally who has had COVID, at 44 percent compared to 37 percent in September. The U.S. remains in the lower half of countries that are not very worried about COVID-19, followed closely by Slovakia, Denmark, France, and China all tied at 11 percent. Countries that remain very worried about the pandemic include Chile at 33 percent, Japan at 31 percent, Brazil at 29 percent, Portugal at 27 percent, Malaysia at 27 percent and Mexico at 25 percent.
  • The surge in cases from the Omicron variant slightly reduced the number of trips consumers made to stores in late January through early February and reversed consumers’ belief from September 2021 that things were starting to return to normal. Only 19 percent of consumers reported that things were returning to normal in stores compared to 24 percent in September.
  • While online shopping numbers have varied from wave to wave, they are essentially flat from where they were in May 2020. Thirty-three percent of U.S. respondents have ordered more online since COVID-19 began. Fifty-five percent of respondents made at least one online shopping trip during the week they were surveyed, up 17 percent since March 2020. Consumers also reported they make an average of one trip per week using click-and-collect, making that channel as popular as delivery.
  • Only 39 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed are satisfied with the in-store shopping experience, a 3 percent drop since September 2021. Only 36 percent of those surveyed felt stores are doing a good job with COVID. Although consumers’ satisfaction with how stores are addressing the virus is low, it is nearly triple the approval rate U.S. consumers have for how government has dealt with the pandemic, which stands at 22 percent. In every country surveyed, consumers felt stores were doing a better job than the government.
  • Although economic pressures have increased over the last five months, the percentage of respondents using key value-seeking strategies has remained flat – 53 percent of respondents compared to 52 percent in September 2021. Value seekers see inflation rates as even higher (18.4 percent) than those not actively seeking value (16.9 percent).


For the nine waves of this study, dunnhumby surveyed 64,827 respondents online in 23 countries: Asia (Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand), Europe (Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom), Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico) and North America (United States, Canada).

The online interviews were conducted for wave one from March 29April 1, 2020; wave two from April 11-14, 2020; wave three from May 27-31, 2020; wave four from July 9-12, 2020 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico only; wave five from Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2020; wave six from Nov. 20-25, 2020; wave seven from Feb. 18-24, 2021; wave eight from Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 2021; and wave nine Jan. 25-Feb. 8, 2022.

Approximately 400 individuals were interviewed in each country for each wave of the study, and respondents were roughly 60 percent female and 40 percent male.

The dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey is available for download here.

Dunnhumby recently launched its customer first retail media platform. To read the full story from The Shelby Report, click here.

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