Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Evolution of Food Consumption

Illusion of Prosperity presents an interesting chart outlining the stagnation is real per capita restaurant sales over the course of the past decade (hat tip GYSC). I wanted to take a deeper look.

What the below charts outline are real per capita retail sales for food services (i.e. restaurant) and food stores (i.e. food for home). The figures are the result of discounting the nominal retail sales by inflation (the BLS breaks out inflation data for both food at home and food away from home), as well as population growth.

The results...

The overall level of food consumed appears to be relatively sticky (right around $300 / person per month), though overall consumption is down by 5% in real terms since 1992. During that time there has been a sizable shift to eating out, which could mean the decline in real terms has to do with eating "cheaper" fast food.

Breaking out each component, we can clearly see the shift to eating out from 1992 to 2006. Since then, it is pretty amazing to see the drop in both components during the crisis and the subsequent rebound (albeit to levels below the previous peak) since.

While not a surprise, this is rather concerning. I recently outlined that bottom earners have been earning less for the better part of the past 15+ years and it looks like it may be actually impacting the dietary habits of Americans (i.e. eating less [unlikely] or eating cheap / unhealthy food [likely]).

Source: Census, BEA, BLS

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