ERS Charts of Note
Friday, June 21, 2019
In 2017, 13.2 pounds per person of fresh head lettuce (iceberg, butter, Boston, and Bibb lettuces) were available for domestic consumption, according to ERS’s Food Availability data. Fresh head lettuce has declined 54 percent from its high of 28.6 pounds per person in 1989. In contrast, availability of romaine and leaf lettuces (such as red and green leaf lettuces) increased, reaching 12.5 pounds per person in 2017 from 3.3 pounds per person in 1985 and almost equaling head lettuce. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of romaine and leaf lettuces. ERS annually calculates national supplies available for domestic consumption by summing domestic production, beginning inventories, and imports and then subtracting exports and ending inventories. Per capita estimates are calculated by dividing these national supplies by the U.S. population. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Newly established links between retail food sales data and USDA nutrition databases now allow researchers to study the healthfulness of Americans’ purchases at retail stores. ERS researchers scored the healthfulness of retail food sales using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2015), a measure that summarizes how well a set of foods conforms to the recommendations in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. In the Healthy Eating Index, the maximum possible score is 100, indicating conformance to Federal recommendations for 13 dietary components encompassing food groups (fruit, dairy, whole grains) and dietary elements (added sugars, fatty acids, sodium). For the nine adequacy components that make up a healthy diet, a high score indicates Americans are purchasing a sufficient amount of foods in these groups. A high score among the four components that nutritionists advise to consume in moderation indicates Americans are keeping purchases of foods containing these components in check. In total, retail food sales in 2013 scored 55, suggesting purchases are not well aligned with Federal dietary recommendations. Scores for whole grains, greens and beans, dairy, sodium, and added sugars were each below 50 percent of their maximum possible scores. This chart appears in the article “New Data Linkages Provide Healthfulness Measures for American Grocery Store Sales” from the June 2019 edition of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Over the past five decades, Americans’ annual consumption of tree nuts has grown from 1.38 pounds per person in 1970 to 3.69 pounds in 2016, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series (a proxy for consumption). Almond consumption experienced the largest growth, increasing by 1.35 pounds per person from 1970 to 2016. Consumption of pecans and walnuts averaged a little over one-third of a pound per person, remaining relatively stable throughout the years. Pistachios have steadily increased in popularity since 1970, reaching 0.33 pound per person in 2016. Consumption of other nuts (cashews, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, and many nut mixes) doubled, reaching almost a pound per person in 2016. Cashews make up the largest share of this grouping. Promotional programs that tout the nutritional value of nuts, including their beneficial levels of vitamin E and omega fatty acids, and increased awareness and demand for nut milks have likely contributed to the growth in per capita nut consumption. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, seafood is a nutrient-dense source of dietary protein. In 2016, 15 pounds per person of seafood products were available for consumption in the United States, an increase from 11.7 pounds per person in 1970. In 2016, the category with the greatest availability was fresh and frozen fish at 6 pounds per person, followed by fresh and frozen shellfish at 5.3 pounds per person, which more than doubled since 1970. These two seafood categories together accounted for 76 percent of fishery product availability in 2016. Fresh and frozen shellfish availability has steadily increased over the past four and a half decades, surpassing canned tuna in 1991. The third highest seafood product, canned tuna, fell to 2.1 pounds per person in 2016 after reaching almost 4 pounds per person in 1989. Availability of the remaining canned and cured seafood products was 1.6 pounds per person in recent years down from a high of 2.5 pounds per person in 1972. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, and a good source of protein, Americans’ consumption of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas) has trended upward in recent years, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series (a proxy for consumption). U.S. consumption of legumes reached 11.7 pounds per person in 2017, up from 8.0 pounds per person in 2014. Rising demand by U.S. consumers for Tex-Mex dishes and food products like hummus drove the increase. From 1970–2017, the largest growth occurred in the consumption of black beans, increasing to 1 pound per capita, and peas and lentils, increasing to 4.7 pounds per capita—the highest consumption among all categories. Pinto beans experienced an uptick in 2017, climbing to 2.9 pounds per person. Despite falling slightly in 2017, consumption of other legumes (chickpeas, black eyed peas, small white, small red, pink, and other beans) has steadily risen, and has grown 63 percent over the past 47 years. However, not all legumes have grown in popularity. Lima bean consumption fell to 0.2 pound per person in 2017—a 74-percent decrease from 1970. Consumption of navy, great northern, and red kidney beans fell 58 percent during this time period as well. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Friday, April 26, 2019
The Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, developed by ERS, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey since 2007. FCBS questions are designed to collect data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their consumption of frozen meals and “ready-to-eat” foods such as salads, soups, chicken, sandwiches, and cooked vegetables from the salad bars and deli counters of grocery stores. Preparing food at home can be a time-intensive activity, and some American adults turn to prepared foods offered in grocery stores when faced with time constraints. ERS researchers used FCBS data to examine changes between 2007–08 and 2015–16 in the frequency of eating grocery-store-prepared dishes and frozen meals and pizzas. Although the average number of times Americans age 20 and older reported consuming frozen meals or pizzas in the past month was similar in both time periods, average past-month consumption of ready-to-eat foods increased by about 26 percent, from 1.9 times in 2007–08 to 2.4 times in 2015–16. Many grocery stores have expanded their ready-to-eat options in recent years. More information from the FCBS can be found in the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS website.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Not all the food that grocers receive ends up in consumers’ shopping carts. Food loss occurs when retailers remove misshaped produce items, overstocked holiday foods, and spoiled foods from their shelves. Rates of supermarket loss for 24 fresh fruits were estimated by comparing pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011–12. Loss rates ranged from 4.1 percent for bananas to 43.1 percent for papayas. Greater perishability, as well as overstocking to manage uncertain or uneven demand, may contribute to higher loss rates. ERS researchers applied the 2011–12 loss rates to 2016 quantities of fresh fruits available for sale in retail stores to estimate retail level food loss. Pineapples and apricots had the second- and third-highest loss rates for fresh fruits, respectively. Pineapples also ranked relatively high in terms of the amount—or volume—of retail loss in 2016 (719 million pounds) due to the 2.2 billion pounds of fresh pineapples available for sale in retail stores that year. Loss volumes were highest for fresh watermelon and apples, reflecting the large quantities available for sale by retailers. In 2016, supermarket loss for the 24 fresh fruits totaled 6.7 billion pounds, or 4.7 billion pounds after removing the weight of nonedible pits and peels. Losses for fresh produce and other foods also occur in homes and eating places, such as when food spoils or is served but not eaten (plate waste). The statistics in this chart are from the 2016 ERS report, Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data and the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in the ERS Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Retail-level food loss occurs when grocery retailers remove dented cans, misshapen produce items, overstocked holiday foods, and spoiled foods from their shelves. Estimates of the rates of foodstore loss for fresh produce were developed by comparing data on pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011–12. The average supermarket loss rate was 11.6 percent for 31 fresh vegetables. The highest loss rate among the vegetables was for turnip greens, followed by mustard greens, and escarole/endive. ERS researchers applied these loss rates to 2016 quantities of fresh vegetables available for sale in retail stores to estimate retail level food loss. Potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce topped the list of fresh vegetables in terms of food loss volumes. Their loss rates are lower than turnip and mustard greens, but their sales volumes are higher. In 2016, potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce accounted for 35 percent of food store fresh vegetable sales. Supermarket loss for the 31 fresh vegetables totaled 6.2 billion pounds per year in 2016, or 5 billion pounds per year after removing the weight of nonedible peels, stalks, etc. Losses for fresh produce and other foods also occur in homes and eating places when food spoils or is served but not eaten (plate waste). The statistics in this chart are from the 2016 ERS report, Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data, and the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Friday, February 8, 2019
On an average day in 2014-16, 69 percent of Americans age 18 and older who were the main grocery shoppers in their households reported that the majority of groceries were obtained from a grocery store, as opposed to a supercenter, warehouse club store, or other store type. According to data from the Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey, these individuals most often cited location as the primary reason they shopped at a grocery store, followed by price and quality of products. Men and women had the same ranking of preferences, but the size of the shares varied by gender. The share of men who preferred to shop in a grocery store because of its location was 47.5 percent—nearly 6 percentage points higher than the corresponding share of women (41.9 percent). A higher share of women than men reported that they preferred to shop in a grocery store because of price, quality, or variety of products offered. Neither gender commonly cited customer service as a determining factor, but a slightly higher share of men than women chose a grocery store because of its customer service. This chart appears in the ERS report, Adult Eating and Health Patterns: Evidence From the 2014-16 Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey, October 2018.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Cranberries may make a traditional appearance on many tables this Thanksgiving, but strawberries are still America’s favorite berry. According to ERS’s food availability data, 16.8 pounds of berries per person were available for consumption in 2016, up from 6.5 pounds per person in 1990. Improvements in product quality, year-round availability, and convenient packaging, along with increased awareness of the health benefits of eating berries, have contributed to the rise in consumer demand. In 2016, a total of 9.8 pounds of strawberries per person were available for consumption—more than for any other berry. Fresh strawberry availability has steadily increased over the past two decades, climbing from 3.2 pounds per person in 1990 to 8 pounds per person in 2016. Cranberries came in second in 2016 at 3 pounds available per person, representing a 129-percent increase since 1990 that was driven by growth in cranberry juice availability. Blueberries came in third at 2.4 pounds per person in 2016, up from 0.4 pounds in 1990. Most of that increase was in fresh blueberry availability. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated October 29, 2018.
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) show that, on an average day over 2014-16, Americans ages 18 and older spent 64.5 minutes eating and drinking as a primary or main activity and 16.8 minutes eating as a secondary activity—that is, eating while engaged in another activity considered primary by the survey respondent, such as watching television or working. Although the amount of time devoted to secondary eating was statistically unchanged from 2006-08, the time spent in primary eating and drinking decreased by a little more than 3 minutes—a 5-percent decline from 2006-08 to 2014-16. The sum of the time allocated to both primary eating and drinking and secondary eating decreased from 85.0 minutes per day in 2006-08 to 81.3 minutes per day in 2014-16. Less time spent eating could reflect more hectic lifestyles, but not necessarily healthier ones. Recent research suggests that eating more slowly and mindfully may help curb excess food consumption and weight gain. This chart appears in the ERS report, Adult Eating and Health Patterns: Evidence From the 2014-16 Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey, released on October 30, 2018.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
On World Pasta Day, October 25, it may be U.S. Millennials (more than other age groups) who celebrate with plates of spaghetti, linguini, or macaroni. Using household purchase data, ERS researchers found that, of all the generations, Millennials assign the largest share of their grocery store (food at home) budget to pasta, with Gen Xers running a close second. Among households earning between $22,500 and $28,332 per household member, Millennials devoted 3.7 percent of their 2014 food-at-home dollars to pasta purchases, Gen Xers 3.5 percent, Baby Boomers 2.9 percent, and Traditionalists 2.8 percent. Across generations, pasta purchases exhibited a negative relationship with income; as households become wealthier, they buy less pasta (which is often inexpensive and shelf-stable), opting to purchase instead more perishable foods like fresh meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. Millennials also assigned more of their 2014 food-at-home budgets to prepared foods and sugar and sweets than other generations—perhaps, in a quest for convenience and time savings. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, December 2017.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
It takes time to shop for groceries, cook meals, eat and drink, and then clean up. On average, Americans age 18 and older spent just over 2 hours per day on these major food-related activities in 2016. Eighty-one minutes were spent eating—as either the primary activity or as a secondary activity while doing something else like watching TV or working—and 43 minutes were spent buying groceries, preparing food, and cleaning up. Individuals age 18 and older who either received benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or lived with someone who did, spent less time eating as a primary activity and more time preparing food and cleaning up compared with the national averages. This greater time spent in the kitchen may reflect more cooking from scratch to stretch food budgets. Individuals in SNAP households spent about the same amount of time grocery shopping and eating as a secondary activity as the average American. The data for this chart and other time-use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
In a recent study, ERS researchers used data from USDA’s 2012-13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at the factors that affect demand for convenience foods, including participation in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides low-income households with monthly benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. Estimates from the ERS study show that SNAP participants spend less on restaurant foods and more on foods from grocery stores relative to non-SNAP households that qualify for the program. SNAP participation was associated with a 26-percent higher level of ready-to-eat grocery store food purchases and a 21-percent higher level of purchases of non-ready-to-eat grocery store food, such as raw meats, seafood, dry beans, pasta, and other foods requiring cooking and preparation time. In addition, eligible non-SNAP households purchased almost twice as much full-service restaurant foods as SNAP households. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report, Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods, June 2018.
Friday, August 17, 2018
On an average day in 2016, Americans age 15 and older spent 63.6 minutes eating and drinking as a primary—or main—activity, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS). In addition, they spent 17.2 minutes eating as a secondary activity—that is, eating while engaged in another activity considered primary by the individual, such as watching television, driving, preparing meals, or working. Five activities accounted for 57.4 percent of all the activities that Americans reported engaging in while eating as a secondary activity. Of these top five activities, watching television (22.7 percent of all accompanying activities) and working one’s main job (22.6 percent) just about tied for the most common activity. The remaining three activities each accounted for less than 5 percent of responses: socializing and communicating with others (4.9 percent), food and drink preparation (4.6 percent), and reading for personal interest (2.6 percent). The data for this chart and other time-use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Childcare requires a lot of time, and some households respond to this constraint by cutting back on time spent shopping for food, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards. ERS researchers used data from USDA’s 2012-13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at the factors that affect demand for convenience and found that households with two children spent 48 percent of their food budgets on restaurant food, while households without children spent only 41 percent. Longer waiting times for food and less child-friendly settings and menu offerings may be among the reasons that households with children spent less on full-service restaurant meals than those without children, regardless of the number of children. As the number of children increases, the monetary cost of eating out seems to outweigh the time savings, especially for households with more than two children. Households with one child spent 37 percent of their food budget on fast food, while households with two children spent 40 percent. The share spent on fast food did not increase after two children. A version of this chart appears in the June 2018 Amber Waves article “Higher Incomes and Greater Time Constraints Lead to Purchasing More Convenience Foods."
Thursday, June 28, 2018
When consumers are pressed for time because of employment demands, many respond by spending less time on food shopping, preparation, and clean up. In a recent study, ERS researchers used data from USDA’s 2012-13 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to look at the factors that affect demand for convenience food. The researchers found that households that are time constrained by employment spent more on restaurant food and less on grocery store food. Households where all adults were employed spent about half of their food budgets at restaurants, whereas households where a primary shopper was unemployed spend only 36 percent. The share of the food budget spent on non-ready-to-eat foods, such as raw meats, seafood, dry beans, pasta, and other foods requiring cooking and preparation time, also presents a picture of households making a tradeoff between time and money. Households where all adults were employed spent 10 percentage points less of their food budgets on non-ready-to-eat foods compared to households where a primary shopper was not employed. The statistics for this chart are from the ERS report Consumers Balance Time and Money in Purchasing Convenience Foods, released on June 27, 2018.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed an average of 156.3 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person in 2015. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Potatoes claimed the #1 spot at 48.3 pounds per person, including both fresh potatoes and processed products (frozen, canned, and dehydrated potatoes and potato chips and shoestrings). Canned tomatoes are the leading canned vegetable, and total tomato consumption—fresh and canned—came in second at 28.3 pounds per person. Americans consumed 7.7 pounds of fresh and dehydrated onions per person in 2015, almost a pound more than head lettuce consumption. Consumption of carrots, sweet corn, and romaine and leaf lettuce finished the list of America’s top seven vegetable choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Millennials are now the largest living generation—surpassing Baby Boomers—in the United States. Their large collective buying power is only expected to expand as their earnings increase as they age. Food retailers, for example, increasingly respond to preferences for grocery store foods that are ready-to-eat or just need to be heated before consuming—preferences that Millennials clearly display. A recent ERS study found that across almost all income ranges, Millennials assigned more of their food-at-home budgets to prepared foods, such as canned soup or deli rotisserie chicken, when compared to older generations. With the exception of households with incomes of $20,000 to $28,332 per household member, the share of food-at-home expenditures devoted to prepared foods stayed relatively constant for Millennial-headed households at 7.5 to 8 percent. In contrast, Traditionalists, the oldest generation represented, generally allocated the least amount of their food budgets to prepared foods, with a small decline in the share for households with higher per capita incomes. This chart appears in "Millennials Devote Larger Shares of Their Grocery Spending to Prepared Foods, Pasta, and Sugar and Sweets Than Other Generations," in the December 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Friday, January 19, 2018
A recent ERS analysis of 2014 grocery store data found that compared to older generations, Millennial-headed households spent the least per person on food at home. However, like the other generations analyzed, Millennial households with higher incomes tended to spend more on grocery store foods than Millennial households with lower incomes. This is likely because poorer households have less income to spend on food at home. Even with this lower spending, lower income households still spend a higher share of their total food budgets in grocery stores. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers spent more per person on food at home in each of 10 income groups than Millennials and Gen X’ers. For example, of households earning between $14,000 and $20,000 per household member annually, Millennials spent just under $80 per month per person on food at home and Gen X’ers spent $85, whereas Baby Boomers in that income group spent $135 and Traditionalists spent $154. Differences in food-at-home spending between the generations may reflect the younger generations’ stronger preference for eating out, which may change as they age. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food Purchase Decisions of Millennial Households Compared to Other Generations, released on December 29, 2017.