Economic clouds start to lift but people still worry over bills

People prioritising rather than forgoing life’s pleasures

Bord Bia’s head of insight and innovation Helen King said the latest research found the emergence of a more resilient and resourceful consumer. “Anxiety has faded and been replaced by vigilance, and an approach to spending which is responsible but not wholly curtailed,” she said

Bord Bia’s head of insight and innovation Helen King said the latest research found the emergence of a more resilient and resourceful consumer. “Anxiety has faded and been replaced by vigilance, and an approach to spending which is responsible but not wholly curtailed,” she said

 


People are becoming increasingly optimistic about the economy, but many are still worried about paying electricity and gas bills, according to new research by Bord Bia.

This time last year, 16 per cent of people surveyed by the State food agency thought the Irish economy was going fairly or very well. When the same question was asked in January, the figure had jumped to 44 per cent.

Similarly, last year 27 per cent said the economy was going very badly but in January this had fallen to 11 per cent.

The research is part of Bord Bia’s ongoing Feeling the Pinch study, which began in 2008 and involves more than 1,000 consumers as well as interviews with cultural experts and academics.

In 2009 half of those surveyed believed their financial situation would worsen over the next 12 months. That has now dropped to 31 per cent.

Bord Bia’s head of insight and innovation Helen King said the latest research found the emergence of a more resilient and resourceful consumer. “Anxiety has faded and been replaced by vigilance, and an approach to spending which is responsible but not wholly curtailed,” she said.


Burdens
“Many consumers have sought to reduce debt and avoid the burdens of taking on more. Purchasing is considered but not constrained.”

She said people were now prioritising, rather than forgoing all of life’s pleasures.

But pressure on incomes and financial security are still issues for many people. According to the findings, 22 per cent of people still struggle to put food on the table, although this has dropped from 30 per cent in 2013.

When asked about their financial worries, 57 per cent said they were fairly, or very, worried about electricity and gas costs while 48 per cent cited petrol costs. Food costs remain a concern for 36 per cent of those surveyed.


Exports
The research found even more optimism from British consumers: the percentage of those surveyed who said the economy was going well had risen from 13 per cent to 38 per cent. That is good news for Bord Bia., with the United Kingdom accounting for 42 per cent of Irish food and drink exports.

Ms King said the survey showed how Irish society ha d changed since the recession . “As things start to settle, a middle ground is emerging, where more hopeful consumers are starting to tailor their optimism to what can be more realistically achieved.”

She said 58 per cent still felt some of the dreams they had before the recession were now probably out of their reach but the figure was 71 per cent one year ago.

The recession had seen a new focus on community and social connections and the survey found that 76 per cent of Irish people considered it to be a sign of success or accomplishment to have a large group of friends – up from 67 per cent in 2013.

“Our approach to life and culture has evolved, and this study shows how a new emerging landscape can offer opportunities for Irish companies and brands,” she said. “It is no longer about building brands; it is now about building brand communities.” Firms were increasingly getting involved in community initiatives and people were more interested in supporting local creativity.

Ms King said the economic shock had not taken away the appetite of Irish consumers to try new things. Some 79 per cent said they liked to try new things, compared with 65 per cent of British people.

“They (Irish people) are more selective about what they choose to spend on, but the excitement over novelty remains very high in international comparison,” she said.