Britons’ cost-of-living crisis habits will endure, says Sainsbury’s boss

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Changes to British consumers’ behaviour that emerged during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, such as more eating at home and increased purchases of own-brand and frozen products, are here to stay, the boss of supermarket Sainsbury’s said on Thursday.

“Just as the pandemic drove a number of shifts in the pattern of how and where people shopped, I think this phase has driven a number of shifts in what people spend their money on. They will endure,” Chief Executive Simon Roberts said.

The crisis has seen UK households battle the biggest two-year fall in living standards since comparable records started in the 1950s.

“Customers have realised through this period of time how they can make their money stretch further, I don’t think they’re going to bounce back from that quickly,” Roberts told Reuters in an interview after Sainsbury’s reported first half results that slightly beat expectations.

He said the rise in the number of customers choosing to dine at home rather than out was significant – bad news for Britain’s beleaguered hospitality sector.

“Eating-in at home, with great food and a nice bottle of wine with friends and family is a good thing to do and is probably a quarter of what you’d spend if you go out. So that’s locked in,” said Roberts.

Shifts to more frozen products and own brand versus generally more expensive branded goods were also locked-in as a change.

“We’ve seen quite a pronounced shift in some categories to own brand products, I think that’s here to stay,” said Roberts, noting sales on a volume basis of Sainsbury’s premium ‘Taste the Difference’ range rose 8.4% in its second quarter.

Own label represents 54% of the UK grocery market by value compared to 51% in 2013, a 3 billion pound shift in sales in a decade, according to market researcher Kantar.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)