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Meat, vegetables, alcohol… Tell me what you consume, I’ll tell you how much you earn (and where you come from)

The contents of our plates say more about us than we think.

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Meat, vegetables, alcohol… Tell me what you consume, I’ll tell you how much you earn (and where you come from)

The contents of our plates say more about us than we think. The proof with a new report from INSEE, published this Tuesday, which focuses, among other things, on the evolution of French food consumption. And shows significant differences depending on household income, or even depending on the region. In its report, produced with the Statistics and Foresight Service (SSP) of the Ministry of Agriculture, INSEE first makes the general observation: “The distribution of household expenditure on food products by major items has little changed in ten years”, i.e. between 2009 and 2019. Meat products, particularly butchered meat, remain the main item of food expenditure (23%), ahead of dairy products (15%) and breads and cereals (10%). %).

However, meat products are losing ground, as are dairy products. The former have seen their share of the French food budget drop by 1.8 points in ten years, the latter by 2.9 points. On the beverage side, the share devoted to alcoholic beverages is also decreasing (-0.6 points). The main beneficiaries of these new decisions are fruits and vegetables (1.0 point for fruits and 0.7 points for vegetables), ahead of breads and cereals (0.6 points).

But the most interesting thing is not there. When we go into more detail about the data, we realize, as INSEE points out, that “household consumption differs depending on income”. With therefore “wealthy” households (the richest 15% of households) devoting a larger part of their budget to aquatic products (10% compared to 8%) and fruits (9% compared to 7%) than the average, and less on breads and cereals (excluding spending on bakeries) and meat products. Among “modest” households (the poorest 15% of households), we consume more bread and cereals than the average (2.8 points), to the detriment of fruits and vegetables (-2.9 points).

Also read: How to gain three to ten years of life by changing your diet

And if we look at the evolution of the structure of the household food budget since 2009, significant trends are observed. For example, low-income households allocate a growing share of their food budget to breads and cereals (1.6 points in ten years), with a significant increase in the quantities of pastries purchased (60% in ten years) and breads (41% ). For well-off households, the most notable change concerns fruit and vegetables, whose share of the food budget has increased by three points in ten years - mainly thanks to fruit. In detail, their consumption of exotic fruits exploded by 38% between 2009 and 2019, and that of citrus fruits by 16%. As for low-income households, they have particularly reduced their purchased quantities of temperate fresh fruit (-21%), which includes apricots, strawberries, pears and other apples.

On the other hand, whether for meat products, dairy products or alcoholic beverages, the shares devoted to these categories in the French food budget “are declining overall for all households, whatever the level of income”, observes the 'Insee. For example, consumption of butcher's meat has fallen significantly for all types of households (-17%), from the most affluent (-16%) to the most modest (-23%).

On the drinks side, “disparities exist in volume according to household income categories, but also according to the types of drinks (alcoholic, hot or cold)”, notes INSEE. The statistics institute indicates, for example, that alcoholic beverages represent 6% of the food budget of low-income households in 2019, compared to 9% for wealthy households. If beer sales are jumping for all households, purchases of still wines (non-sparkling) have fallen drastically for the poorest households in the space of ten years (-25%), when they have increased by almost 10 % for the wealthiest households.

Also read Food: should we really be wary of the quality of low-cost products?

When it comes to hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, etc.), well-off households enjoy themselves much more: they spend almost 30% more than the average, while lower-income households spend less overall than the average. Finally, for cold non-alcoholic drinks, “wealthy households consume more bottled water and fruit juices and fewer refreshing non-alcoholic drinks than poor households”. The situation is completely opposite for low-income households.

In the same way, we do not consume in the same way in Brittany or on the Côte d’Azur. For example, the decline in meat consumption observed at the national level is greater in the Paris region (-13%). Conversely, in the West and the South-West, “the decline in meat products is less”, points out INSEE, with consumption which “increases for all products, except for fresh meat from butchers (respectively -14% and -13%)”. For fruits and vegetables, if the volumes purchased are increasing at the national level (special mention in the Center-East, with an increase of 10%), this is not the case in the North (-6% of fresh vegetables and -2 % fresh fruit). On the other hand, households in the North are those who consume the most potatoes (fresh and frozen), “with 46 kg purchased per household on a three-year average” (calculated from 2008 to 2010 for the year 2009 and from 2018 to 2020 for the year 2019).

For fats, it is no surprise that butter consumption is highest in the West (8 kg per household on a three-year average). Households in the South-West and South-East consume the most oils (almost 9 liters per household on a three-year average), even if their consumption has been decreasing beyond the national average for ten years (-11%, compared to ‑9% at the national level). Finally, in the drinks department, the North remains the region with the highest consumption of beer (37 liters per household per year on a three-year average), although it is in the South-West that the quantities consumed are increasing the most (61%). The quantities purchased of still wines are increasing particularly in the South-East and the West (11%) and in the Paris region (6%). For spirits, although national consumption is declining, the South-West is an exception, with an increase of 25% in ten years. All without taking the place of the most consuming region, which still belongs to the North (8 liters per household on a three-year average).

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