Shifting Demographics Show Evolving U.S. Consumer

November 04, 2010

Food as a percentage of total consumer expenditures in 2008 was at its third lowest level over the past 10 years

Food as a percentage of total consumer expenditures in 2008 was at its third lowest level over the past 10 years, the same percentage seen in 2005, according to The Food Institute’s recently released 2010 Demographics of Consumer Food Spending book, which compiles data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. This is down from the 10-year high of 13.6% seen in 2000. At the same time, the average annual household food expenditures were at the highest in 2008 and average annual expenditures also increased significantly, up more than $12,000 over the same eight years. The average number of persons remained the same at 2.5. Food spending across all categories increased. Spending on food at home went from $3,021 in 2004 to $3,744 in 2008, while spending on food away from home also jumped, from $2,137 in 2000 to $2,698 in 2008. With a population increase, the number of consumer units saw a modest increase over eight years, ending in 2008 with 120,770,000 units.

The Food Institute points out that one of the more interesting facets of the ever-evolving U.S. consumer is how the influx of immigrants, mostly Hispanics, is changing how the food industry as a whole will compete for their dollars. In terms of ethnicity, Hispanics and Latinos spend the most on Food At Home ($4,039), followed by White & All Other Races ($3,842), Total Non-Hispanic or Latino ($3,707) and Black or African-Americans ($2,813). At the same time, Hispanics were only the third highest in terms of food expenditures for Food Away From Home, indicating that this consumer segment sees eating at home as a higher priority. Black or African-Americans spent the most on Meats, Poultry, Fish, And Eggs (30% of their food budget) while Hispanics or Latinos spent the most of the Ethnic categories on Fruits and Vegetables (11.96% of their budget). Latinos also spent the highest amount on food as a percentage of their annual expenditures, 14.3%, compared to the average of all consumer units, 12.4%.

Consumers aged between 35 and 44 spent the most on food when compared to other age groups ($7,849), or almost 100% more than the lowest spending group, those over the age of 75. The is most likely due to the fact that those aged 35-44 probably have more mouths to feed in a single household.  Compared to data from 2007, those aged under 25 showed the biggest one-year increase in food spending (7.4%), followed by consumers aged 45 to 54 (7.2%) and those 35 to 44 (6.2%). For data involving gender, the highest number of female consumer units is those over the age of 75, but this segment spends the least amount on both food at home and food away from home. The $2,713 that this sector spends annually is 33.2% under the highest spending category, those females aged between 35 to 44, although those over 75 have over five times the amount of consumer units. The average single male in 2008 also spent 16.5% more on food overall compared to the average single female, although the female consumer units outnumbered the number of male consumer units.

The entire study is available from the Food Institute by clicking here.