A new survey shows that many US families are struggling to buy basic non-food grocery essentials such as personal care and baby care products, pointing to opportunities in the lower-priced mass market category.
The study reveals that families are substituting regular products for much cheaper household items, that could potentially put a family’s wellbeing in the balance, the authors claim.
Such trade-offs include substituting baking soda for deodorant, dish soap for shampoo and even bathing without soap, the report highlights.
As well as opportunities for lower-priced products, the situation also lends itself to philanthropy, an area that Procter & Gamble has been involved in.
P&G wades in with philanthropy
"This study demonstrates the importance American families place on personal and household care items in their lives," said Brian Sasson, Manager of Social Investments at Procter & Gamble.
"Over the past 30 years we have been proud to contribute funds and donate P&G products to the Feeding America network of food banks to help ease the burden for some of these families in need."
When the economic crisis first hit in 2008, the resulting impact on the cosmetics and personal care market resulted in heavy discounting by big players such as P&G and Unilever.
However, the current market conditions suggest a greater polarization, as the recovering spending power of middle class and wealthier households, appears to be leaving behind those at the bottom rung of the ladder.
Rich getting richer, poor have no soap
Recent figures published by Piketty and Saez point to the fact that the wage gap between the top 1 percent of earners and the rest of the country is now at its highest ever rate since the 1920s, reaffirming a trend that has now lasted three decades.
The study, In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials, released today by Feeding America, points out that it is families with young children that tend to be hardest hit.
The report highlights that many of these families are making trade-offs with other living expenses, together with coping strategies, in an effort to secure these basic essentials.
The authors point out that the report also coincides with new USDA statistics that show 49 million people in the country, including 16 million children, currently live in at risk of hunger.
One in three families struggling with basics
The survey discovered that one in three families found it difficult to afford basic household necessities during the course of the past year, while of those families that reported struggling, 82 percent were said to live with love food security – essentially meaning they cannot afford to buy enough food for the family.
In an effort to copy, the survey results highlight that many families are compromising areas of their budget that can potentially jeopardize general hygiene habits, raising the risk of health and well-being issues.
Other coping strategies include prioritizing washing the clothes of young children and babies, or skipping washing the dishes.
"The lack of everyday essentials, such as toilet paper, toothpaste, soap or disposable diapers, may compromise the health and well-being of our at-risk neighbors, especially those who face food insecurity,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America.
“The difficulty within American households to afford these necessities underscores the need for institutions to work together in an effort to help low-income families address their basic needs."