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Despite inflation, food-away-from-home spending continued to accelerate in 2023

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Food spending in the United States reached an all-time high in 2023. However, accounting for food price inflation and population growth reveals a nuanced narrative over time. Even after adjusting for inflation (known as constant terms), per capita food-away-from-home (FAFH) spending rebounded after a 15.6-percent drop in 2020 with an average annual increase of 10 percent since 2021. This trend resulted in an 11.9-percent increase in FAFH spending in 2023 compared with 2019, outpacing prepandemic trends. In contrast, constant per capita food-at-home (FAH) spending declined 2.3 percent in 2022 and 3.1 percent in 2023, following stable annual increases averaging 2.8 percent from 2016 to 2021. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food Expenditure Series data product, updated in June 2024, and Interactive Charts: Food Expenditures, updated in September 2023.

Home-grilled cheeseburger costs grew 1.8 percent from 2023 to 2024

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Consumers planning Fourth of July cookouts might wonder how the cost of a burger stacks up to last year. If you like yours with lettuce and tomato, the cost of ingredients for a home-prepared quarter-pound cheeseburger totaled $2.22 per burger in May 2024. The same cheeseburger cost $2.18 to prepare in May 2023, an increase of 4 cents (1.8 percent). Prices rose over the year for ground beef (by 3.8 percent), tomato (3.4 percent), and bread (1.0 percent) and fell for Cheddar cheese (-5.0 percent) and iceberg lettuce (-0.5 percent). Ground beef accounted for more than half of the total burger cost, at $1.29 per 4-ounce patty, which was a 5-cent increase from 2023. The cost of a tomato slice grew one cent to $0.23 in May 2024. These higher prices were partially offset by the lower cost of Cheddar cheese in May 2024, which sliced 2 cents off the total burger cost by falling from $0.37 to $0.35. USDA Radio featured a related sound bite, The Cost of that Fourth of July Burger, in June 2024. USDA, Economic Research Service tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the Food Price Outlook data product, last updated on June 25, 2024.

Food-away-from-home price growth outpaced food at home and overall inflation over past decade

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Prices for food away from home (FAFH), or eating out, grew more quickly from 2014–24 than food at home (FAH), and the overall rate of inflation. Prices for all consumer goods and services across the economy, as measured by the all-items Consumer Price Index, rose by 34.3 percent between January 2014 and May 2024. FAFH prices climbed steadily over the past decade and were 49.5 percent higher in May 2024 than January 2014, while prices for FAH, or groceries, rose 29.9 percent. Although FAH prices grew at a faster rate than the overall inflation rate at times, particularly between 2020 and 2023, FAH also had periods of minimal price change from 2015 to 2019 and since 2023, as illustrated by the relatively flat slope of the line. Food prices can be affected by economy-wide inflationary factors, such as rising input and energy prices, but the distinct services and industries that contribute to FAFH and FAH costs can lead to differing price patterns over time. USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Dollar Series shows that the food services industry group contributes the largest share of FAFH costs, and salaries and benefits account for a majority of costs in that industry group. In contrast, the industries contributing the largest shares of FAH costs are food processing and retail and wholesale trade. The ERS Food Price Environment: Interactive Visualization, last updated in February 2024, presents annual FAH and FAFH inflation over time and provides context for the Food Price Outlook data product.

Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington, DC, had highest shares of food-away-from-home sales

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The share of food spending at restaurants and similar food-away-from-home (FAFH) establishments has generally increased over time in the United States, although this trend varies across States. Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington, DC, stand out as outliers in terms of the share of per capita FAFH sales. In 1997, FAFH sales stood notably higher in Washington, DC at 73.5 percent, Nevada at 59.0 percent, and Hawaii at 56.2 percent than in other States at 41.6 percent. Each of those numbers grew by 2023 to 76.2 percent in Washington, DC, 63.9 percent in Nevada, 63.5 percent in Hawaii, and 53.0 percent in other States. The three outliers experienced more significant disruptions in food spending patterns in 2020 during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In Washington, DC, the share of FAFH sales fell 9.1 percentage points from 2019 to 2020, while Hawaii and Nevada’s share decreased 9.0 percentage points and 7.5 percentage points, respectively. The eating-out share in other States decreased 4.6 percentage points in that period. In most States, the FAFH share grew rapidly from 2020 to 2023. Nevada’s and Hawaii’s share grew at least 8 percentage points over the three years, while all other States grew 6.9 percentage points, on average. While Washington, DC’s FAFH share grew 7 percentage points over the period, it remained more than 12 percentage points higher than Nevada’s and Hawaii’s in 2023. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s State-level Food Expenditure Series and the Amber Waves article Analyzing Food Sales Trends at the State Level Using New Series, published June 2024.

Entry of dollar stores affected rural independent grocery stores more than urban stores

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Compared to urban independent grocery stores, rural independent grocery stores were nearly three times more likely to close following the opening of a new dollar store in the same census tract from 2000–19. Using proprietary data from the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) database and the ERS Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) Codes, researchers from USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), North Dakota State University, and the University of Connecticut examined how entry of new dollar stores in urban and rural census tracts affected the number, employment, and sales statistics of independent grocery stores in these areas from 2000–19. When a new dollar store opened in a rural area, the likelihood of an independent grocery store closing was 5 percent, which was nearly three times greater than in urban areas (1.7 percent). Similarly, the decline in employment at independent grocers in rural census tracts was about 2.5 times as large as in urban tracts (7.1 percent versus 2.8 percent, respectively). Sales declined 9.2 percent at independent grocery stores in rural areas, which was nearly double the decline in urban areas (4.7 percent). Researchers also found that these changes waned in urban areas about 5 years after a new dollar store’s opening, whereas the effects continued in rural areas, indicating longer term impacts. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, Dollar Store Entry Affects Rural Grocery Stores More Than Urban, published May 2024.

Starchy fresh vegetables (excluding potatoes) had the most seasonal price variation from 2016–18

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Food-at-home prices, especially for fresh produce, fluctuate throughout the year depending on seasonal shifts in supply and demand. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) Food Purchase Groups (EFPGs) separate fresh vegetables into seven distinct categories: potatoes, tomatoes, other starchy vegetables, other red and orange vegetables, dark green vegetables, legumes (includes dried), and other/mixed vegetables. The ERS Food-at-Home Monthly Area Prices (F-MAP) data from 2016 through 2018 reveal that seasonal price variation is most pronounced in the other starchy vegetables category. The most common vegetable in that category is corn. The category with the least seasonal price variation is dark green vegetables. Fresh vegetables that are primarily sourced domestically or from North American trading partners may be more readily available in the summer months, causing prices to drop during that time. Spending on other starchy vegetables is highest in the summer months, which coincides with the lowest prices for these products, suggesting a demand response to lower prices and higher availability. Food-at-home price variation is measured in two ways using price indexes, or unitless measures of the cost of a basket of goods that can be used to track price change over time. First, standard deviations across monthly price indexes show how much prices deviate from the average. Second, ranges of monthly price indexes (i.e., the maximum price index minus the minimum price index) capture the difference between periods of seasonally low prices and periods of seasonally high prices. This chart is drawn from the ERS F-MAP data product, which is described in the ERS report Development of the Food-at-Home Monthly Area Prices Data, published in March 2024.

About 20 cents of each dollar spent on food in 2022 went to foodservice labor costs

Monday, April 29, 2024

Primary factors are the resources used by firms to convert raw materials and intermediate goods into finished products and services. In 2022, the primary factor shares across the domestic food supply chain were 5.0 cents of every dollar spent on domestically produced food for imports, 8.8 cents for output taxes, 36.8 cents for property income, and 49.3 cents for salaries and benefits. These primary factors can also be separated by industry groups, which are collections of establishments that produce similar types of products or services, including transportation, food processing, and retail trade. The foodservices industry group, which includes eating and drinking establishments such as restaurants, received a total of 34.1 cents of each dollar spent on domestically produced food. Of this amount, salary and benefits were 20.3 cents and property income was 9.7 cents. These costs in the foodservices industry group rank as the two highest primary factor costs of all the 12 industry groups measured in the Food Dollar Series. Additionally, 3.6 cents went to output taxes, such as excise, sales, and other taxes on production, less subsidies; and 0.5 cents went to embedded imports—imported ingredients and equipment used in domestic production. This chart uses information in the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) Food Dollar Series data product, updated November 15, 2023, and the Amber Waves article ERS Food Dollar's Three Series Show Distributions of U.S. Food Production Costs, published in December 2023.

Retail food price inflation varied across U.S. metro areas in 2023

Monday, April 15, 2024

Retail food price inflation varies by locality. In 2023, food-at-home (grocery) prices rose the fastest in Houston, TX, by 7.8 percent, followed by Boston, MA, at 7.0 percent. In contrast, food-at-home prices declined by 1.3 percent in 2023 in Anchorage, AK, and rose by the lowest amount (1.7 percent) in Honolulu, HI. Across the United States, food-at-home prices increased by 5.0 percent on average in 2023. Differences in retail overhead expenses, such as labor and rent, can explain some of the variation among cities, because retailers often pass local cost increases to consumers in the form of higher prices. Furthermore, differences in consumer purchasing patterns for specific foods may help explain variation in inflation rates among cities. Products that consumers purchase vary regionally, and each metro area’s inflation rate is calculated based on a representative set of foods unique to the area. For example, an area whose residents purchase more foods with slower price inflation (such as fresh fruits and vegetables at 0.7 and 0.9 percent average growth in 2023, respectively) might experience lower food-at-home price inflation than an area whose residents buy more cereals and bakery products or nonalcoholic beverages, which increased by 8.4 percent and 7.0 percent, respectively, in 2023. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Food Price Environment: Interactive Visualization, last updated in February 2024, which presents the 10-year average change in prices by metro area and provides context for the Food Price Outlook data product.

Changes in food spending from 2019 to 2022 varied by State

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The U.S. food system experienced many changes since 2019, particularly during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Per capita total U.S. food spending increased 6.3 percent in 2022 compared with 2019 when adjusted for inflation. Inflation-adjusted food-at-home spending approached 2019 levels in 2022, while food-away-from-home spending remained high compared with prepandemic levels. However, this trend was not consistent across States. Washington, DC, had the largest decrease in total food spending between 2019 and 2022 (7.4 percent), mainly driven by a 12.9-percent decline in food-away-from-home spending. States with decreases or relatively small increases in total food spending were largely concentrated in the Northeast. Massachusetts and New York each saw decreases of 0.7 percent in inflation-adjusted, per capita total food spending between 2019 and 2022, while food spending in Vermont grew 1.6 percent. Many States with the largest increases in inflation-adjusted, per-capita food spending were concentrated in the West, with Nevada (16.3 percent), Wyoming (15.5 percent), and Arizona (13.9 percent) seeing the largest increases over the period. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service’s State-level Food Expenditure Series, updated February 2024. For more on food spending, see the Amber Waves article U.S. Consumers Spent More on Food in 2022 Than Ever Before Even After Adjusting for Inflation, published September 2023.

Farm establishments received nearly a quarter of each food-at-home dollar in 2022

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

In 2022, farm establishments received 24.1 cents for each dollar spent on food at home and 3.6 cents for each dollar spent on food away from home. These amounts, called farm shares, highlight the different paths that food takes from farms to consumers' points of purchase. Food-at-home dollars include food purchases from outlets such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and wholesale clubs that are meant to be prepared at home. Food-away-from-home dollars include food purchases at restaurants, including delivery and carry-out, and other venues where the food is eaten on the premises. The remainder of each food dollar makes up the marketing share, which is the total value of processing, transportation, retailing, and other activities that get food from farm operations to points of purchase for consumers. In 2022, the marketing share was 75.9 cents per food-at-home dollar and 96.4 cents per food-away-from-home dollar. The marketing share can change based on many factors, such as consumer preferences and the costs of production inputs. The marketing share is higher for food away from home because of the higher costs of preparing and serving meals. Find additional information in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Amber Waves article ERS Food Dollar's Three Series Show Distributions of U.S. Food Production Costs, published in December 2023, and the ERS Food Dollar Series data product, updated November 15, 2023.

ERS Food Price Outlook forecasts converged on actual food price changes in 2023

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

In 2023, all food prices (representing both food at home and food away from home) increased by 5.8 percent on average compared with 2022. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) publishes food price forecasts in the Food Price Outlook (FPO) data product. Each month, the FPO forecasts the annual average change in prices for the current year, and the forecasts are presented as a midpoint and a prediction interval. The prediction interval, which represents uncertainty of the forecast, starts out wider at the beginning of the year and narrows as forecasts incorporate more months of observed data and the forecast period shortens. In January of each year, final data are available to assess the performance of the forecasts from the previous year. During the first few months of 2023, the all-food forecast midpoints were higher than the actual annual average change in all food prices, but the prediction interval from each forecast developed in 2023 contained the actual annual average change in prices. By July, the forecast midpoint converged on the actual average change in prices and remained within 0.1 percent through the remainder of the year. ERS researchers project all food prices to increase 1.3 percent in 2024, with a prediction interval of -1.4 to 4.2 percent. This chart is based on data from the ERS Food Price Outlook, updated January 25, 2024.

Mobile apps remained popular for quick-service carryout and delivery spending after pandemic-related increase

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Through the end of 2022, consumer spending at quick-service restaurants on carryout and delivery remained persistently higher than the first observable Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period (March–May 2020). USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers recently examined consumer spending trends on carryout and delivery from quick-service restaurants by mobile application types (including mobile website equivalents) from December 2019–February 2020 through October–December 2022. Consumers quickly adopted alternative methods to spend money on and acquire food at the beginning of the pandemic. In June–August 2020, carryout spending at quick-service restaurants via restaurant-specific apps doubled from prepandemic levels, and spending on delivery via third-party apps more than tripled. Third-party apps typically offer food from a variety of restaurants, while restaurant-specific apps are operated by the restaurant or establishment. App spending on carryout and delivery peaked in March–May 2021, reaching a total of $4.4 billion, with third-party app delivery and restaurant-specific app carryout spending each reaching about $1.6 billion. Most recently, total app spending on both carryout and delivery reached roughly $3.9 billion, where restaurant-specific carryout spending and third-party app delivery spending accounted for $1.6 and $1.4 billion, respectively. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, Pandemic-Related Increase in Consumer Restaurant Spending Using Mobile Apps Continued Through 2022, published January 2024.

More than half the farm share of the food dollar was value added by farm establishments in 2022

Monday, January 29, 2024

In 2022, farm establishments received 14.9 cents per dollar spent by consumers on domestically produced food for the sale of farm commodities. However, this amount, called the farm share, does not all remain on the farm. Farm commodity production requires many inputs from nonfarm establishments. Some inputs, such as fertilizer, seed, and equipment, are supplied by establishments in the Agribusiness industry group. These inputs to farm commodity production cost 2.1 cents per dollar spent on food in 2022. Inputs from industry groups such as Energy and Transportation are also used on the farm and throughout the food supply chain. In 2022, the cost of these inputs at the farm level was 4.9 cents per dollar spent on food. The remaining 7.9 cents from the farm share (just more than half) are for farm production, which is equal to the value added by farm establishments through their use of labor, equipment, and materials. The remaining 85.1 cents per dollar spent on food in 2022 went to industries to get food to various points of purchase after it left the farm. This portion is called the marketing share. This chart was drawn from the Amber Waves data feature “ERS Food Dollar’s Three Series Show Distributions of U.S. Food Production Costs,” published in December 2023.

Retail food price inflation subsided across categories in 2023

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Food-at-home prices increased by 5.0 percent in 2023, much lower than the growth rate in 2022 (11.4 percent) but still double the historical annual average growth from 2003 to 2022 (2.5 percent). All product categories shown grew more slowly in 2023 compared with 2022. Food price growth slowed in 2023 as economy-wide inflationary pressures, supply chain issues, and wholesale food prices eased from 2022. In 2023, prices for fats and oils grew the fastest (9.0 percent), followed by sugar and sweets (8.7 percent), and cereals and bakery products (8.4 percent). Pork prices declined 1.2 percent in 2023, and prices for several categories grew more slowly than their historical averages, including beef and veal (3.6 percent), eggs (1.4 percent), fresh vegetables (0.9 percent), fresh fruits (0.7 percent), and fish and seafood (0.3 percent). Egg price growth receded in 2023 after a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak affected the industry in 2022. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers project overall food-at-home prices will decrease 0.4 percent in 2024, with a prediction interval of -4.5 to 4.0 percent. ERS tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the monthly Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 25, 2024.

Food-at-home spending drops close to pre-COVID levels, while food-away-from-home spending remains high

Monday, January 22, 2024

Following shifts in U.S. food spending during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, food-at-home (FAH) spending was only 2.7 percent higher in November 2023 compared with November 2019, while food-away-from-home (FAFH) spending remained elevated at 14.6 percent higher. After an initial jump in inflation-adjusted FAH spending in March through May 2020, FAH spending leveled off, averaging just 2.8 percent higher in December 2020 compared with 2019. Even as FAH prices increased throughout 2021 and 2022, inflation-adjusted FAH spending increased as well, with monthly FAH spending in these years averaging 7.2 percent higher than the corresponding months in 2019. FAH spending has trended back toward prepandemic levels since the peak difference of 9.5 percent in March 2022. By contrast, FAFH spending initially fell significantly during the pandemic but reversed quickly and outpaced 2019 spending starting in June 2021. From June 2021 through December 2022, monthly inflation-adjusted FAFH spending averaged 8.7 percent higher than the corresponding months in 2019. FAFH spending peaked at 14.8 percent higher in March 2023 compared with March 2019. This chart combines and updates two charts from USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Amber Waves article U.S. Consumers Spent More on Food in 2022 Than Ever Before, Even After Adjusting for Inflation using data from the ERS Food Expenditure Series data product, updated January 19, 2024.

Food services continue to claim largest share of U.S. food dollars

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

In 2022, more than a third of U.S. dollars spent on domestically produced food went to foodservice establishments, which includes restaurants and other food-away-from-home outlets. At 34.1 cents per food dollar in 2022, the foodservice share increased 1.6 cents from 2021 to reach its highest value in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Dollar Series. Industry groups add value by transforming the inputs they purchase from other industry groups and selling their output at higher prices. For instance, foodservice establishments prepare meals using food bought from distributors, such as those in the wholesale trade industry group, and utilities, such as gas and electricity bought from establishments in the energy industry group. Prices paid by customers include the value added by the restaurant itself plus the cumulative value added by all establishments before the restaurant. Annual shifts in the food dollar shares among industry groups occur for a variety of reasons, including changes in the mix of foods consumers buy, costs of materials, ingredients, and other inputs, as well as changes in the balance of food at home and away from home. The industry group shares food dollar data are available for 1993 to 2022 in the USDA, ERS Food Dollar Series data product, updated November 15, 2023.

Lower prices for apples, butter, and eggs slice the cost of a Thanksgiving pie in 2023

Monday, November 20, 2023

U.S. consumers baking a homemade apple pie for Thanksgiving this year can expect to pay about $8.15 for the ingredients, a decrease of 7.0 percent from last year. Price increases for flour, sugar, and lemon juice were offset by lower prices for apples, butter, and eggs, leading to a $0.61 decrease in the cost of a pie between 2022 and 2023. The price of the main ingredient, Granny Smith apples, fell 7.5 percent from $1.52 per pound in October 2022 to $1.41 per pound in October 2023. Prices decreased the most for eggs (38.6 percent), followed by butter (6.2 percent), between October 2022 and October 2023. Prices increased the most for lemons (20.0 percent) and sugar (16.0 percent), though those ingredients contribute only a small share to the total cost of a pie. If serving the apple pie à la mode, ice cream adds an additional $0.38 per scoop, an increase of $0.02 from last year. The most recent average price data are from October, meaning prices for Thanksgiving week may vary. For example, savings may occur if grocers offer holiday discounts. USDA, Economic Research Service tracks aggregate food category prices and publishes price forecasts in the monthly Food Price Outlook data product, which will next be updated on November 22, 2023.

Farm share of U.S. food dollar dipped below 15 cents in 2022

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

U.S. farm establishments received 14.9 cents per dollar spent on domestically produced food in 2022 as compensation for farm commodity production. This portion, called the farm share, is a decrease of 0.3 cents from a revised 15.2 cents in 2021. The farm share covers operating expenses as well as input costs from nonfarm establishments. The remaining portion of the food dollar, known as the marketing share, covers the costs of getting domestically produced food from farms to points of purchase, including costs related to transporting, processing, and selling to consumers. One of the factors behind the long-term downward trend in the farm share is an increasing proportion of food-away-from-home spending. Farm establishments receive a lower portion of dollars spent on food away from home because of the added costs of preparing and serving meals. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) uses input-output analysis to calculate the farm and marketing shares of a food dollar, which is an average of all domestic expenditures on U.S. food. The data for this chart can be found in the ERS Food Dollar Series data product, updated November 15, 2023.

U.S. households that earn less spend a higher share of income on food

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Households spend more money on food as their incomes rise, but the amount spent represents a smaller share of their overall budgets. When U.S. households were divided into five equal groups, or quintiles, by household income, households in the lowest income quintile had an average after-tax income of $16,337 and spent an average of $5,090 on food (about $98 a week) in 2022. Households in the highest income quintile, with an average after-tax income of $196,794, spent an average of $15,713 on food (about $302 a week) in 2022. As households gain more disposable income, they often shift to more expensive food options, including dining out. Food spending as a share of income rose across all income quintiles in 2022 as food prices increased faster than the overall inflation rate. Food prices increased 9.9 percent in 2022, the largest annual increase since 1979, and food-at-home (grocery) prices increased 11.4 percent. However, despite these large price increases, households’ share of income spent on food in 2022 was lower than in 2019 for the lowest three income quintiles and nearly the same for the highest two income quintiles. In 2022, food spending represented 31.2 percent of the lowest quintile’s income, 13.4 percent of income for the middle quintile, and 8.0 percent of income for the highest quintile. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Spending section of the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.

Rural counties dependent on recreation had the most food-away-from-home outlets in 2019

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Rural U.S. counties that economically depend on natural amenities, tourism, and recreation generally had more options for dining out per 1,000 people in 2019 than those with other leading industries, such as mining, manufacturing, or farming. Roughly 2,000 U.S. counties were considered rural in 2019, where rural is broadly defined as any area that is nonmetropolitan. About 12 percent of those counties had recreation as their primary industry. Those rural, recreation-dependent counties had nearly 3.5 restaurants and other food-away-from-home (FAFH) establishments per 1,000 people, higher than rural counties dependent on other industries. Other types of rural economies had fewer restaurants and other FAFH outlets per 1,000 people, ranging from 2.2 outlets per 1,000 people in farming-dependent counties to 2.6 in mining-dependent counties. Metropolitan counties had average densities between 1.4 and 3.1 FAFH establishments per capita. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, Among Rural U.S. Counties, Those With Recreation-Dependent Economies Had Most Options Per Capita for Dining Out in 2019, published in August 2023.