Seafood on Aussie shopping lists

Supermarket scanner data

What happened? The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released experimental supermarket scanner data to get a guide on food consumption trends.

Findings: Aussies have lifted purchases of seafood over the past year. But the appeal of baking at home has seemingly waned with demand for sugar, flour and baking mixes falling over the year.

Implications: The data provides insights into consumption patterns with implications for food manufacturers, farmers and supermarkets.

How were the estimates made?

• The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been collecting ‘point of sale’ systems data from supermarkets, otherwise known as scanner data, since 2011.

• The main use of the data is to assist in compiling inflation data (the Consumer Price Index). In fact the scanner data accounts for around 16 per cent of the CPI compilation.

• But the ABS is now looking to use the scanner data to assist in compilation of household consumption data and to assess food consumption trends.

• The ABS notes that it “currently receives data from major supermarket chains, this data accounts for approximately 84 per cent of all expenditure through supermarkets.”

• The ABS further notes that “nearly 80 per cent of food consumed by households in Australia is purchased through Supermarkets. Therefore, scanner data is most relevant in the compilation of the “Food” category within household consumption. This category includes all food and non-alcoholic beverage products purchased by households that have not been pre-prepared as a catering service. It excludes any food consumed in restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, but includes almost all food products purchased at supermarkets. In total the Food consumption category constitutes approximately 10 per cent of household consumption, and around 6 per cent of GDP.”

• The experimental scanner data differs a little from the existing estimates of retail trade and household final consumption expenditure but “the experimental estimates tell a similar story around the patterns of food consumption”.

• The ABS also notes that the scanner data has been valuable in obtaining food consumption data at a regional level.

What are some of the findings?

• In the year to June the experimental scanner data showed that food rose in nominal terms by 2.1 per cent while volumes rose 2.2 per cent (prices down 0.1 per cent).

• The experimental data on the volume of food consumed in the June quarter shows a fall of 0.8 per cent whereas the published HFCE data shows a fall of 1.0 per cent.

• There are around 83 individual food items.

• In the year to June, real spending grew fastest for a raft of seafood items such as lobsters and crabs (up 100 per cent); Oysters (up 33.3 per cent); prawns (up 14.7 per cent); fish (up 12.9 per cent).

• In part, Chinese bans on Australian exports of lobsters re-directed supply to the local market. And lower prices would have attracted Aussie buyers.

• At the other end of the scale, real spending fell most over the past year for baking mixes and doughs (down 26.3 per cent); sugar (down 19.8 per cent); flours (down 14.5 per cent); kiwi fruit (down 12.8 per cent); and preserved fruits and jams (down 9.3 per cent).

• Baking at home soared in the first half of 2020 but has lost appeal over time.

• Real spending on prepared meals soared over the first half of 2020 but annual growth contracted by 0.5 per cent in the December quarter 2020. Annual spending growth has since lifted to 21.2 per cent in the June quarter 2021. Demand for prepared meals bounces around depending on when and where lockdowns are occurring.

Published by Craig James, Chief Economist, CommSec