Could the cost of living crisis derail sustainable shopping habits?

9 June 2022

Fresh from the stage at ShopTalk Europe, IGD CEO Susan Barratt, examines how shoppers are coping with the cost of living crisis and explores the impact on sustainable shopping habits.

With inflation running at 9% year-on-year, shoppers are being hit from all sides by rising prices. Many are experiencing rising food, energy, and petrol bills, coupled with the impact of the rise in national insurance.

As such, shopper confidence is bleak. Our Shopper Confidence Index is currently running around 10 points lower than the previous low - back in December 2013 when the horsemeat scandal hit the industry.

ShopperVista data shows that shoppers are planning and budgeting more, with different groups coping in different ways. Lower affluence shoppers are more likely to skip meals to save money, with one in seven now doing this. This group is also more likely to stick to a budget, use variety discounters and cut back on eating out.

In contrast, higher affluent shoppers are more likely to be planning their meals more, making it more challenging for industry to encourage impulse purchases.

Given this financial stress for households, it’s no surprise to see shoppers shifting towards saving money on food and grocery shopping. More people are now choosing stores to save money, now at 48%, up from 39% at the start of the year.

Our insight shows that the cost of living crisis is already impacting the trade-offs between affordability and sustainability. In March ’22 42% of shoppers plan to focus more on price and quality rather than environmental concerns. This is up from 35% in March ’21. The trade off between sustainability and price differs depending on shopper profile, but overall, some 44% of shoppers think it is too expensive to support an environmentally friendly lifestyle, compared to 27% who disagree.

This is undoubtedly a moment of disruption. But it’s also the time for industry to lead on sustainability. There’s a credible opportunity for businesses to increase the sustainability of products on shelf, help consumers make informed choices and reduce cost for business and consumers.

We’re working collaboratively with the whole industry to drive tangible change in several areas including food waste, packaging, net zero, environmental labelling and healthy and sustainable diets. Through this extensive work, I know there’s lots of appetite in the industry to do more and drive impact.

We need to make sustainable shopping a way of life for shoppers and I’m urging companies from industry to join us in these programmes to ensure shoppers don’t have to choose between cost and sustainability. One that does not come at a price premium and one that helps businesses reduce costs over time.

Businesses are invited to join our sustainability programmes at

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