Spending on fruits and vegetables up in 2017, but less than total food increase

Originally published on The Packer

Consumer expenditures on fruit and vegetables took a jump in 2017, but not as much as the percentage hike in overall spending on food.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its 2017 Consumer Expenditures report

The big-picture narrative is that total consumer spending increased 4.8% in 2017, following an increase of 2.4% in 2016, The report said the average annual expenditures by consumer units increased from $57,311 in 2016 to $60,060 in 2017.

The data showed that spending on fruits and vegetables totaled $837 in 2017, an increase of 6.9% compared with 2016. That compares a 7.3% increase in spending on all food, according to the report.

Food-at-home spending rose 7.3% to $4,363 while food-away-from-home spending rose 6.7% too $3,365, according to the CE report. The percentage of total expenditures on food was reported at 13% in 2017, the same share as the previous three years.

The spreadsheets in the report also isolate spending on fresh fruits and vegetables across a number of demographics.

The mean average spending across all consumer units was $274 for fresh vegetables and $314 for fresh fruit. The share of fresh produce purchases compared to all consumer expenditures was 0.5% for fresh vegetables and 0.5% for fresh fruit.

By the age of consumers, for example, top spending consumers for fresh fruit were in the 45 to 54 age bracket, with mean expenditures of $378 or 2017. That compares with just $176 spend on fresh fruit for consumers aged under 25. For fresh vegetables, the 35 to 44-year-old age group was top rated, with 2017 mean expenditures of $329 compared with $138 for consumers under age 25.

Not surprisingly, the report said that top spenders on fresh produce were top earners. Consumers making more than $200,000 per year spent an average of $529 on fresh vegetables, compared with $140 for those making less than $15,000. But consider the consumer making less than $15,000 was spending 0.6% of income on fresh vegetables, compared with 0.3% for the consumer making more than $200,000.

There is more micro-analysis where that came from. The report shows spreadsheets for spending by income before taxes by quintile, decile, and range; age of the reference person; size of the consumer unit; composition of the consumer unit; number of earners; housing tenure (homeowner or renter) and type of area (urban or rural); region of residence; occupation; highest education level of any consumer unit member; race; Hispanic or Latino origin; and generation of reference person.

Perhaps more data than can be absorbed, true.

Yet the Consumer Expenditures report is another set of market data the industry can gain insights from, and it reminds me of a conversation last night here at the Produce for Better Health Consumer Connections Conference in Scottsdale. One industry leader said consumer research that has been sponsored by PBH over the years and available for review on their website is an absolute treasure trove of information for produce marketers who pay attention. Inquiring minds, you know, get the worm.

Tom Karst
April 24, 2019 08:14 AM