Overview

Long-term consumer spending trends in most foreign markets show declining expenditure shares for staples (like rice and wheat) and increasing shares for higher value food items (such as meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables). These shifts in food demand trends have reshaped food marketing globally and prompted changes in the structure of the global food industry. Food suppliers and retailers have responded to demand by modifying their products and retail formats to better meet consumer needs. Large multinational retailers have expanded in the developing countries, with the top 15 companies accounting for more than 30 percent of global supermarket sales. Moreover, the structure of the global food industry is changing as manufacturers and retailers adjust to meet the needs of consumers, who are increasingly demanding a wider variety of higher quality products.

ERS analyzes data collected by various national and international organizations (U.S. trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce; United Nations trade data; consumer expenditures and other economic indicators from the World Bank) and a commercial vendor (Euromonitor International) to examine the ongoing evolution of global food markets and consumption patterns. 

ERS’ outputs on international consumer and food industry trends  

New International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns: A Focus on Cross-Price Effects Based on 2005 International Comparison Program Data

This report presents cross-price elasticities for 9 major consumption categories across 144 countries, using 2005 International Comparison Program (ICP) data. Cross-price elasticities are also reported for a two-good demand system based on food and nonfood items. This report builds on an earlier report, report, International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns: An Update Using 2005 International Comparison Program Data (see link below), which presents expenditure and own-price elasticities for nine major consumption goods as well as for eight food subgroups. Data presented in the report on cross-price elasticities is available here.

International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns: An Update Using 2005 International Comparison Program Data

The report confirms findings from earlier studies that show that low-income countries spend a greater portion of their budget on necessities, such as food, while richer countries spend a greater proportion of their income on luxuries, such as recreation. Low-value staples, such as cereals, account for a larger share of the food budget in poorer countries, while high-value food items make up a larger share of the food budget in richer countries. Overall, low-income countries are more responsive to changes in income and food prices and, therefore, make larger adjustments to their food consumption patterns when incomes and prices change.

Both reports mentioned above build on the modeling approach presented in International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns and in Cross-Price Elasticities of Demand Across 114 Countries.

Convergence in Global Food Demand and Delivery and “Converging Patterns in Global Food Consumption and Food Delivery Systems”

The report and the article show that changes in food consumption patterns are largely driven by income growth and demographic factors, particularly lifestyle changes brought about by urbanization, away-from-home employment of women, and increased levels of information. While income growth is one of the most important factors contributing to demand changes, urbanization has been equally important in changing the composition of the food basket consumed. Economic growth can continue indefinitely and go in cycles. However, urbanization has so far been a one-way process with, as occurred in developed countries, the rural share of the population eventually becoming so small that urbanization is no longer an important factor in projecting food demand. Among developing countries with a large share of rural population and rapid rates of urbanization, urbanization is expected to significantly alter consumers' diets with greater consumption of meats, fruit, vegetables, and processed food products. 

"Where Will Demographics Take the Asia-Pacific Food System?" (2004) 

This Amber Waves article presents findings from Where Demographics Will Take the Food System, first released at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum Ministerial Meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, October 2003. Fifteen Pacific Rim countries contributed to the original report, which was jointly sponsored by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, ERS, the Farm Foundation, the East-West Center, and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii.​ 

Data on expenditures on food and alcoholic beverages in selected countries

The tables contain data on expenditures on food (including nonalcoholic beverages), alcoholic beverages, and tobacco as a share of consumer expenditures on all goods and services for 86 countries. The tables also contain data on per capita consumer expenditures on goods and services, as well as per capita food expenditures for these countries. Data is available for the 86 countries for which this type of information is currently available in the source database, Euromonitor International. All expenditure data are in current U.S. dollars.

Data on expenditures on food and alcoholic beverages in selected countries are available here

Data on international consumption trends 

  • International Food Consumption Patterns database (This data product is no longer being updated) presents income and price elasticities and marginal shares for 9 major consumption groups and 8 food subgroups across 144 countries, using 2005 International Comparison Program (ICP) data. Also available: estimates for 114 countries based on 1996 ICP data.