Snapshot of Australian food prices and consumer and household expenditure on food

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th April 2013

Australian Food News recently reported that the total value of food and liquor retailing in Australia grew by 4.2 per cent in 2011-12, to $135.8 billion, according to ‘Australian Food Statistics’, a yearly report compiled by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) from data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

But the report found that a more detailed analysis of the data showed a more complex picture than what was suggested by the overall figures.

Food prices

The report found that real growth of food and liquor expenditure (expenditure deflated by the consumer price index, which is the variation in prices paid by households for food items) was only 1.8 per cent in 2011-12, well below the average of the previous 20 years of 3.4 per cent.

According to the report, this lower growth figure reflects the lower expenditure in the takeaway food sector, which would have brought the overall figure down despite relatively strong growth in the liquor and café and restaurant sectors.

The consumer price index food items increased by 0.7 per cent in 2011-12, compared with an average increase of 3.9 per cent for the 10 years to 2010-11. This modest increase reflects lower fruit and vegetable prices, particularly for bananas, because of much-improved seasonal conditions in 2010-11, and the strong Australian dollar, which lowered food import prices.

The consumer price index for alcoholic beverages increased by 3.4 per cent in 2011-12, but was still below the 10-year average for this category of 4.6 per cent. The ‘all groups’ consumer price index increased by 2.4 per cent in 2011-12, which is also below the category’s 10-year average of 2.9 per cent.

Household spending by food category

The ABS conducts a survey every five years of Australian household expenditure on food and beverages, and the latest available figures are for 2009-10. Estimated household spending on food and beverages in Australia increased to around $244 a week in 2009, up from $216 in 2003-04 and $212 in 1998-99. However, household spending on food and beverages as a proportion of total household spending declined to 19.1 per cent in 2009-10, down from 19.9 per cent in 2003-04 and 21.1 per cent in 2003-04.

Meals out and takeaway food increased as a proportion of total household spending on food and beverages over the three survey periods, growing from around 22 per cent in 1998-99 to more than 25 per cent in 2009-10. In 2009-10, nearly 15 per cent of household spending went to alcoholic beverages, while only 5 per cent of household spending was on non-alcoholic beverages.

For meals at home, the largest percentage of household spending on a specific category was on meat (about 10 per cent). The 2009-10 figure is roughly the same as spending on meat in 1998-99, but a drop from an increase to about 12 per cent of household spending in 2003-04.

Cereal products such as bread, cakes and cereals were just behind meat as a percentage of household spending, but this category too had seen a drop. Percentage of household spending on cereal products such as bread, cakes and cereals declined from just over 10 per cent in 1998-99 to about 8 per cent in 2009-10.

Household spending on dairy products stayed roughly the same in the five years between 2004 and 2009, with about 7 per cent of household expenditure dedicated to this category. Spending on fresh fruits and vegetables was also stable at just less than 5 per cent in each of the three survey periods between 1998 and 2010. Spending on other food in 2009-10 accounted for about 15 per cent of household expenditure.


DAFF's 'Australian Food Statistics' report consumer spending stats