SA consumers brace for grocery price hike, use tech to shop frugally

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South African shoppers are preparing for a significant rise in grocery prices over the next six months. According to PwC South Africa’s Voice of the Consumer Survey 2024, 77% of South African consumers expect their grocery bills to increase, highlighting inflation as their top concern.

The survey, which included 1,009 South Africans as part of a global study involving over 20,000 participants from 31 countries, reveals that inflation is seen as the biggest threat to the economy, with 75% of respondents sayin that it was their primary worry.

Read: SA workers’ adoption rate of AI surpasses those in Europe and US

Anton Hugo, PwC Africa Retail Industry Leader, notes that while consumers tolerated price hikes during the Covd-19 pandemic, they are now seeking better value for their money.

“Consumers are increasingly unwilling to accept further price increases, and 44% are considering switching to more affordable brands,” he says.

Shifting shopping habits

The survey also sheds light on evolving shopping behaviours. A significant 83% of consumers compare prices across different apps before making a purchase.

Meanwhile, 75% prefer visiting multiple physical stores if necessary, and 69% use apps to check prices before buying in-store.

Nqaba Ndiweni, PwC Africa Consumer, Industrial Products and Services Industry Leader, points out that not all retailers are offering alternatives to physical stores yet. “Retailers need to innovate and provide a seamless blend of physical and digital shopping experiences,” he explains.

The role of social media

Social media significantly influences South African shopping habits, with 41% of consumers making direct purchases through these platforms. Additionally, 83% use social media to discover new brands, and 82% seek reviews before buying. Despite these trends, many consumers remain wary of social media’s safety and reliability.

Sustainability and health trends

Sustainability is also a priority for South African consumers, with 93% feeling the impact of climate change. More than half (52%) are buying more sustainable products, even if it means paying extra. Interestingly, 67% plan to increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, though only 14% consider the environmental impact of their food choices.

Lullu Krugel, PwC Africa Sustainability Leader, highlights the opportunity for food producers to bridge the gap between consumer intent and sustainable practices. “There’s a growing interest in plant-based diets, driven by health and cost considerations,” she says.

Integrating AI with human interaction

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more common, companies need to make sure people feel comfortable with these new technologies. While 80% of South Africans are worried about AI’s future, over half trust it for simple tasks like recommending products. However, they are less confident in using AI for more personal things, like healthcare.

Dave Ives, a consulting partner at PwC South Africa, says businesses need to be careful when using AI. “Companies must use AI in a way that addresses people’s concerns and keeps ethical standards,” he advises.

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