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SymphonyIRI is out with its newest annual Back-to-School research report, concluding that the economy continues to play a role in the choices people make for their children’s lunches and snacks. Among the findings:

• 39 percent of parents (that don’t allow children to purchase lunch at school) agree or strongly agree with the following statement – “I may compromise on the nutritional value of the lunch and/or snack in order to save money.”

• 68 percent are strongly influenced by a low price point.

However, that doesn’t mean that issues of health and nutrition are off the table:

• 90 percent of shoppers are strongly influenced by packing lunch items that “taste good” for their children. While only 47 percent of shoppers are strongly influenced by packing lunch items that is “low calorie.”

• 14 percent of shoppers said they’re likely to pack carbonated soft drinks much less often compared to last year, while 21 percent of shoppers said they’re likely to pack bottled water much more often compared to last year, and 16 percent of shoppers said they’re likely to pack juices much more often compared to last year.

The economy also is affecting where people shop in general for back-to-school needs, with 53 percent of those earning $35-55,000 a year planning to shop more at mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart and Kmart, and 50 percent of those earning more than $100,000 saying precisely the same thing.

“The good news corporations are reporting in their Q2 earnings is not translating to consumer confidence,” said Susan Viamari, editor, Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI. “Even shoppers in higher-income brackets are channel shifting to save money. Typically, lower-income shoppers are most price sensitive and lead in economizing trends. This year, shoppers in households earning $55,000 and more are frequently as aggressive about saving money as other shoppers.”

The report also notes that “it is easy to miss signs of recovery, but they are there. While 37 percent of consumers believe their financial situation will be better a year from now versus today, that is up from 31 percent in last December’s SymphonyIRI Economic Update Survey.  This more recent survey revealed 19 percent expect their situation to be worse off in a year, down from 23 percent in December’s survey.”

Full disclosure: IRI is a regular MNB sponsor.
KC's View:
It’d be nice if we could get to the point where people would not feel that they have to make a choice between healthy and economical.