Whether it is healthy fruits and vegetables, junk food, or fancy food at upscale restaurants, spending money on food has become more popular than ever across the world. Countries, rich and poor, spend a lot of their money on food of all kinds, and families spend a decent portion of their incomes on buying their meals.
However, some countries spend more money on food than others, specifically on junk food, sweets, and sugary drinks, which have replaced the healthier diet based on fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil, according to Joao Breda, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) European office for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. This, of course, has been linked to higher obesity rates in countries with less healthy food.
Americans spend only 6.4% of their household income on food, and if you factor in the costs of eating out, that figure increases to 11%, according to data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2015.
“Generally speaking, the more developed a country is, the smaller the percentage of household income it spends on food,” according to the World Economic Forum website. However, there can be wide disparities within a country.
Over the past 25 years, the poorest 20% of households in the US spent between 28.8% and 42.6% on food, compared with 6.5% to 9.2% spent by the wealthiest 20% of households, according to the World Economic Forum.
“There are only eight countries in the world that spend less than 10% of their household income on food. Four of these are in Europe. The UK is third at 8.2%, followed by Switzerland at 8.7%. Ireland spends 9.6% and Austria 9.9%. The remaining four countries are spread across the globe. The US spends the least at 6.4%, Singapore spends the second lowest amount at 6.7%. Canada spends 9.1% on food, while Australia spends 9.8%,” the World Economic Forum website reported.
Nigeria spends over half of household income on food, and there are nine other countries that spend over 40% on food. Four of them are in Africa: Nigeria at 56.4%; Kenya at 46.7%; Cameroon at 45.6%; and Algeria at 42.5%. Four are in Asia: Kazakhstan at 43.0%; Philippines at 41.9%; Pakistan at 40.9%; and Azerbaijan at 40.1%. Guatemala is the only South American country to spend over 40% of its household income on food, at 40.6%.
A good explanation for the difference in the rates of spending on food among these countries is that as countries get richer, they spend more money on other things, like entertainment or leisure. However, this pattern fluctuates, and also highly depends on elements like the specific prices of foods in countries and people’s preferences in terms of these foods. A notable example of how this rule does not hold is that India, which is much poorer than Russia, spends a smaller portion (25.2% v Russia’s 31.6%) of its household budget on food, according to First We Feast online food magazine.
Interestingly, in Western Europe, the Irish spend the most money on their fast food eating habits, despite the prevalent obesity crisis, especially among children.
“The nation forked out €264 per head of population on takeaways such as hamburgers and pizza—up 19% since 2012. The Euromonitor 2018 report on Ireland’s fast food industry said that fast food, overall, continued to see healthy growth rates in 2017, in spite of pressure caused by health concerns. The report showed Ireland is number 11 in the world when it comes to splashing out on fast food. But it pales in comparison to the US, which spend more than any other country on fast food—three times as much as Ireland,” Irish Mirror said. Australia came in second place when it comes to spending on fast food, while Canada came in third.
The spending habits on food differ from one country to another and even from a region to another within the same country. The changes in the spending habits depend on many factors and they result in various health habits and lifestyles. That being said, the popularity of spending money on fast food is likely to continue growing over the upcoming years and may be linked to habits that are even less healthy.