MANILA: Monthly grocery spending in the Philippines has dropped sharply as people increasingly choose to eat in quick service restaurants or buy meals prepared in convenience stores.

According the latest Nielsen Shopper Trends report, which covered 1,783 grocery decision makers aged 15-65 years old living in urban locations, the average monthly grocery spend has fallen 13% over the past two years to a figure of P4,700.

This decline appears in large part to be a consequence of a rapid growth in the habit of eating out. The proportion of Filipino consumers dining at fast food restaurants at least once a week has almost doubled in the past year, jumping from 14% to 25%.

There is also evidence that consumers are turning to prepared meals sold by convenience stores as an alternative to cooking food themselves at home.

Lou-Ann Navalta, Nielsen's Shopper Insights leader in the Philippines, told Marketing Interactive that food brands could not afford to ignore these developments.

"These time-strapped Filipinos are spending more time away from home or in transit and are now more serious about convenient alternatives," she said.

"Food manufacturers in particular should understand that the need for 'ready to eat' or 'quick and easy' is not just a fad that will fade away; it is here to stay."

As well as creating new products to meet consumer requirements, Navalta suggested manufacturers could explore ways of linking up with fast food restaurants and convenience stores as a way of maintaining relevance with these shoppers.

For retailers, location is vital, as the Nielsen report highlighted how consumers prefer to make all their purchases in stores nearest their homes.

And having got shoppers in-store, Navalta observed that "opportunities to trigger unplanned purchases of items are endless".

The report found that while almost nine in ten shoppers claimed to plan their shopping and to stick to a budget, the same proportion acknowledged that they frequently bought more than they intended.

Almost half fell for attractive promotions, with price discounts and BOGOF offers particularly popular.

But Navalta cautioned that such promotions should be "strategically planned with a marketing objective in mind" to avoid harming the category.

Data sourced from Marketing Interactive; additional content by Warc staff