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CONSUMER SWITCH

Power cuts drive consumers to non-perishable foods, takeaways and online

Power cuts drive consumers to non-perishable foods, takeaways and online
Rolling blackouts have caused South Africans to opt for non-perishable products, takeout meals and online shopping, driving growth in these industries as consumers adapt to the effects of electricity cuts. (Photo: iStock)

The rolling blackouts that are crippling the economy are changing food spending patterns in South Africa, with consumers increasingly turning to non-perishables, takeaway options and online orders. These are among the findings of a survey and report by accounting firm PwC. 

Canned beans it seems are flying off the shelf while takeaway food and deliveries ordered online are also doing brisk trade. 

This is according to PwC’s latest Global Consumer Insights Survey Pulse 6: Key trends and insights impacting the South African consumer. 

“Load shedding has … impacted consumer behaviours in several ways, with more than 50% of consumers opting for non-perishable products and items that are less reliant on electricity,” PwC said. 

“The demand for takeout and foods that can be conveniently purchased has also seen a significant increase, as indicated by 40% of respondents, while online purchases experienced a surge, with 31% of respondents, predominantly younger generations lacking access to alternative energy sources, choosing to buy more items online due to load shedding.”

The assertion that such trends are increasing is based on the questions the survey asked as there is no comparable past data to draw from.

In response to Daily Maverick queries, PwC said the questions were framed as follows: 

“Which, if any, of the following actions have you taken as a result of Load Shedding?:

  • Changed the type of products I purchase to those which are that are less reliant on electricity/last longer
  • Purchased more goods online since going into stores is more difficult during load shedding hours
  • Purchased non-perishable foods/bought smaller pack sizes to ensure groceries do not spoil
  • Purchased more take-outs/bought more convenience food that can be quickly reheated/prepared
  • Sought out alternative power sources to ensure that I have electricity during load shedding hours
  • None of the above.

“With retailers across South Africa facing numerous challenges — from load shedding and limited economic growth, to rising interest rates and a high unemployment rate — it is evident that their approach to consumers needs to consistently evolve in order for them to grow market share and a greater share of a strained consumer wallet,” PwC said. 

It must be said that there may be other factors at play here as well. 

Food inflation comes to mind. It slowed on an annual basis to 11.1% in June from 12% in May, but that is still elevated, and prices for some perishable items remain red hot. 

The milk, eggs and cheese component of food inflation for example was 15.1% in the year to June, and vegetables overall cost over 20% more. Meat inflation on the other hand was only 6.1%. 

But PwC’s questions were specifically about the rotational power cuts and they are clearly impacting almost every feature of life in South Africa. At the moment, that seems to be good news if you’re in the non-perishable food, take-way or online shopping business. DM

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