Man Does Not Live By Bread Alone, And Here Are The Stats To Prove It

Some experts blame the obesity epidemic partly on the fact that Americans can now easily buy so many delicious things to eat and drink. A study by Information Resources Inc. lends credence to that theory as it finds Americans spending one-third of their packaged-food-and-beverage budget “on products consumed for pure enjoyment rather than nutritional value.”

For all the supposed interest in salubrious diets, 43 percent of adults said they rarely or never give up flavor for the sake of health benefits. The 68 percent of respondents who claimed they eat five servings a day of fruits and vegetables (at least on “some” days) were outnumbered by the 81 percent who eat desserts and/or indulgent snacks at least that often. Some segments of what IRI dubs the “enjoyment category” are faring better than others. Comparing dollar sales for the 52 weeks ending this May 15 with the previous year’s figures, the study notes strong gains for wine (up 8.1 percent) and spirits (up 6.4 percent). There were modest gains for salty snacks (1.7 percent), ice cream/sherbet (1.6 percent) and coffee (1.8 percent); carbonated drinks (down 1.5 percent) and cookies (down 0.1 percent) declined a bit. (The figures come from scanner data for drug, food and mass retailers, excluding Wal-Mart.)

The study points to a significant difference in the way various age cohorts indulge themselves. “Older consumers spend more of their dollars on higher-ticket wine and spirits, for instance, while younger consumers allocate more of their spending to salty snacks and carbonated beverages.” Given the price of a nice Bordeaux relative to that of a nice corn chip, the result is that boomers devote a higher proportion of their food-and-beverage budget to enjoyment categories than younger adults do. Consumers age 50-58 spend 35 percent of it on enjoyment items, and those 40-49 spend 33.5 percent. The 21-27-year-olds allot 27.5 percent to enjoyment foods/beverages, and the 28-39-year-olds spend 29.8 percent. It’s not as if young folks spend their cash on meeting the food pyramid’s requirements: 62 percent of the 21-27-year-olds eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables at least some of the time, as do 73 percent of the 50-58-year-olds.

The presence of kids is a complicating factor. Households with children spend more on enjoyment edibles and potables than those without children, since the former are typically larger than the latter. “However, those without children allocate a higher percentage of their total food and beverage budget to enjoyment categories.” And why not, since they needn’t share the treats with their sticky-fingered offspring.