I'm seeing more reports about changes in consumers' food shopping habits during the current economic recession. AC Nielsen reported in a July 10, 2009 blog post:
Those affluent households are also making more trips to the grocery, accounting for the largest share (41%) of total basket ring dollars versus middle-income and low-income households. For the past 13 periods, affluent households posted trip growth in every period, while grocery trips by middle-income households were about flat and grocery trips among low-income households were off in all periods.
Affluent households are also driving faster trip growth in value
retail channels like supercenters, warehouse clubs and dollar stores,
but their overall importance to the sales in each channel ranges from a
low of 19% for dollar stores to a high of 57% for warehouse clubs.
Such changes in shopping habits are bound to hit higher-end retailers hard. Analysist Matt Carallaro of Forbes magazine suggests that that Whole Food's recent stock hike was due to "the rather soft news that the organic food retailer will take part in a program to confirm it only sells products that have not been genetically modified."
He goes on to say, "While Whole Foods' menu is certainly a healthier alternative to processed food distributors, consumers' wallets are emaciated."