Population growth, eating out and fast foods are driving food expenditure to record levels

22 August 2018

Australia’s recent population growth has been the key driver of a near doubling of domestic food consumption over the past 20 years, according to new ABARES research.

ABARES Executive Director, Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds, said that while a lot of attention had been focused on performance in export markets, domestic producers have been successful in competing for a growing share of household expenditure as our incomes have increased.

“The good news story of this research is that while household food consumption expenditure continues to grow, so do our net food exports,” Dr Hatfield-Dodds said.

Dr Hatfield-Dodds said average spending on food per person has increased from $2950 in 1988–89 to around $3780 in 2016–17 in real terms.

“Household food budgets as a share of after-tax income have fallen overall since 1988–89, flattening out in recent years,” Dr Hatfield-Dodds said.

“The story here is not just how much we are eating, but what we are eating—and that depends on how much you earn.

“Higher income households have shown a willingness to pay a premium for quality food, while price is a key factor in the way lower income households shop for their food.

There is a trend across the whole Australian population to spend more on eating meals out and fast foods.

“Eating out and eating fast foods now makes up 34 per cent of household food spending, up from 25 per cent in 1988–89.”

Food demand in Australia: trends and issues 2018 includes: data on food consumption by income, age and net worth; production and trade analysis; and, an examination of food security issues.

More information is available on the ABARES website.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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