Spanish spending more, eating better

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cent, Olive oil

Despite a 17 per cent increase in sales of ready meals last year,
the traditional Spanish diet - high in olive oil, fruit and
vegetables and bread - is at little risk of disappearing, according
to the latest consumption data.

Spanish food consumption increased by 1.9 per cent last year compared to 2001, according to the latest data from the country's Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA) announced this week by Agriculture minister, Miguel Arias Cañete.

The figures confirm the continuing increase in annual food consumption which began in 1997. The figures are based on food consumption and expenditure data from 6,000 households, 700 hotels and restaurants and 200 catering organisations.

Total food expenditure in 2002 reached €66.2 billion, a 7.8 per cent increase on the previous year in real terms (i.e. including the impact of inflation) and a 3 per cent rise on a constant currency basis.

Households account for 73.2 per cent of all food expenditure, with restaurants and catering accounting for the remaining 26.8 per cent. But households also saw the biggest increase in spending during 2002, up 2.1 per cent, followed by hotels and restaurants with 1.5 per cent and the catering sector with a decline of 2.6 per cent.

As far as product sectors are concerned, Spaniards consumed 68kg of meat and meat products per capita in 2002, marking a return to traditional consumption levels after several years of reduced consumption linked to problems such as BSE and foot-and-mouth disease. Consumption was up 4 per cent on 2001, while prices rose 4.5 per cent - although this was 4 per cent lower than the increase seen between 2000 and 2001.

Consumption of fish and seafood products, the second-largest segment in terms of expenditure, reached 36.6 kg per capita on average last year. Sales rose by 4.5 per cent in volume terms and by 8.6 per cent in value.

Sales of milk and dairy products varied greatly. Liquid milk sales declined slightly during the year, down 0.8 per cent in volume terms as a result of a 3 per cent hike in prices caused by the launch of several new brands of value-added fortified milk.

Dairy products, on the other hand, registered a 3 per cent increase in volume sales to 35.2 kg per capita per year. The volume increase came despite a 13.6 per cent rise in prices during the year, following on from the 7 per cent increase registered in the previous year.

As far as bread is concerned, Spaniards consumed an additional 200g per person in 2002, despite an 8 per cent increase in prices. This was because of a growing trend towards speciality breads, which are always more expensive than traditional products.

Consumption of pastry and other baked goods increased by 4 per cent to 13.4 kg per head.

Edible oil sales were driven by an excellent performance from virgin olive oil, which boosted sales by 13.5 per cent to 3.2 litres per capita. Consumption of standard olive oil dropped 2.5 per cent, however. These two categories of oil account for 61 per cent of total consumption in Spain, with combined sales of 12.7 litres per head, up 5.1 per cent on 2001. Sunflower oil accounts for 32 per cent of total consumption, while other oils account for the remaining 7 per cent.

Vegetable sales reached 65 kg per capita in 2002, up 2kg on the previous year, while fruit sales also increased, rising 2.4 per cent to 98kg per person per year. This marks the continued reversal of the declining consumption trend noted between 1987 and 1999, and is in no small part linked to growing awareness of the health benefits of fruit and vegetables, Cañete said.

Ready meal consumption also increased during the year, with the 16.6 per cent growth attributed to the launch of new added value products, greater convenience and improved taste. But the Ministry urged the food industry not to pursue the development of this important sector at the expense of the nutritional value of the food itself. It also stressed that despite the excellent growth, this sector still accounted for less than 2 per cent of total Spanish food expenditure in 2002.

Spanish wine consumption rose by 1 per cent in 2002, according to the MAPA figures, reaching 8 litres per capita. At the same time, prices dropped by 1.2 per cent. Table wine sales continued to decline, dropping 3.3 per cent to 19.7 litres per capita; however, a sharp 10.7 per cent increase in prices meant that table wine value sales rose 7 per cent for the year.

Beer sales remained flat at 54 litres per capita in 2002, while spirits and other strong liquors saw 10 per cent decline in sales to 4.5 litres per head.

The data clearly shows that Spanish consumers are becoming increasingly demanding in their food purchases, looking for products of higher quality even if they are more expensive. Thus, sales of Denomination of Origin wine, virgin olive oil and quality-controlled meat products increased during the year, as did demand for 'healthy' foods such as natural or organic produce.

MAPA also said that there was a growing trend towards the Mediterranean Diet - high in fish, vegetables and olive oil - helped by increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of such products.

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