Kiwis spend more on food than most

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014

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New Zealanders spend about 14 per cent of their household income on food at home - higher than many developed countries, with United States householders only spending half that amount.

The Kiwi spend per person is the fifth highest in the world.

Switzerland, Norway and Japan, in order, take the first three positions, followed by Australia and then New Zealand.

The first three affluent countries have the highest level of farm subsidies and support for food production and their cost of food is high.

Global food and drink industry international speaker Professor David Hughes said the high Kiwi and Australian spend surprised him and high food prices and a fondness for food could be factors, with New Zealand's strong dollar likely to be contributing as the US figures were based on its currency.

New Zealand was a long way from manufactured food suppliers and a tiny market, he said.

Food spending in Australasia could also be linked to the lack of retail competition in both countries, with two main companies dominating the supermarket trade.

"Is there anything here to do with retail dynamics?

"In both Australia and New Zealand you have got two principal retailers with the lion's share who at one level seem to be aggressively competing with each other, and I'm not suggesting they are colluding, but it seems strange, or do you just eat more?

"And if you look at some folk you would say ‘yes', or do you eat better, or more premium. . . . It's certain you don't eat out as much and are a bit tightfisted, and you eat at home.

"But also, as a European, when I come here and look at food prices I think, wow, that's a lot of money and [in] Australia even more so," Hughes said.

Kiwis are bigger spenders than Germans or Brits, who spend 9.1 per cent of income on food. They spent US$3300 per capita during the year in 2012, which is 50 per cent more than the average UK person's US$2214 spent at home.

Hughes said British food prices had been in a period of deflation, along with recession-hit Europe. Retailers had been harder on suppliers the past six to eight years, yet food prices had gone up, certainly in Australia.

The big companies here appeared to have maintained margins better.

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- Fairfax Media

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