Price hikes worsen household diets: 8 out of 10 families buy lower-quality foods

More than half of the families eat less fish. 20% buy more ultra-processed food and 33% increase their consumption of canned food instead of fresh food. Higher spending means that 9 out of 10 consumers cut back in other sectors.

Price hikes worsen household diets: 8 out of 10 families buy lower-quality foods

Food price increases have worsened the diet of Spaniards. Thus, 8 out of 10 families are being forced to buy lower-quality products and more than half have reduced fish consumption. These are two of the data provided by a survey conducted by FACUA-Consumers in Action to nearly 5,000 people during this month of December (see tables with all the results here [in Spanish only]).

The rise in food prices has caused 25.2% of families to reduce their purchases of fresh vegetables, 29.0% of fresh fruit, 23.3% of dairy products. Fish consumption was reduced by 50.9%. As for meat, 28.5% have reduced their consumption of chicken, 37.4% of pork and 55.5% of beef.

The survey, carried out by FACUA between December 13 and 22, involved 4,963 families from all over Spain.

More frozen, canned and ultra-processed foods

43.3% of families have substituted some or all of the fresh fish they consume for frozen products, while 18.1% have done so with meat. 33.0% have replaced consumption of fresh products with canned products. 19.8% have increased their purchases of ultra-processed products.

In the case of ultra-processed products, the percentage of families consuming them between one and three days a week increased from 12.8% to 17.9%. Those who consume them four to seven days a week increased from 1.5% to 4.7%.

FACUA also asked those surveyed if they have substituted any food that they usually buy for a similar but lower quality food in order to lower the price. Only 22.4% indicated that they have not had to do so. The highest number of affirmative mentions was for fish, where 15.6% of families acknowledged that they had had to give up the fish they usually ate in favor of other cheaper species. In second place, meat, with 12.7%.

5.9% of the families have substituted olive oil for sunflower or other vegetable oils in some meals and 2.4% have done so in all or almost all meals. 18.0% have substituted extra virgin olive oil for other olive oils of lower quality.

Frequency of meat and fish consumption

As for the frequency of consumption, 60.5% of the families indicated that last year they ate fish one to three days a week, a percentage that decreased to 41.2% this year. The percentage of those who ate fish four or more days a week also decreased, from 8.6% to 3.6%. Families that do not eat fish even once a month have increased from 4.7% to 10.1%.

There has also been a significant drop in the frequency of beef consumption. From 28.7% who consumed it one to three days a week last year to 14.7% who do so today.

In the case of pork, the 40.8% of families consumed it between one and three days a week. Actually, 28,7% do it.

As far as chicken meat is concerned, the drop is also significant. From 61.6% who consumed it between one and three days a week in 2021 to 51.3% who do so today.

Fruits, vegetables and greens

In the case of the consumption of fresh vegetables, the number of families that consume them four to seven days a week has gone from 58.3% last year to 42.9% at present.

As for fresh fruit, last year 78.0% of families consumed it four to seven days a week, and now it has dropped to 59.2%.

Dairy products, legumes and cereals

There has also been a decrease in the number of days that dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.) are consumed. Last year, 75.6% of families consumed between four and seven days a week and this year 62.1% do so.

On the other hand, the frequency of consumption of legumes is very similar. 65.2% consume them from one to three days a week, compared with 67.5% last year. 10.6% consume them four or more days, while in 2021 the percentage was 8.8%.

Similar levels are also maintained in the frequency of rice and other cereal intake. 60.2% consume them from one to three days a week, compared to 62.7% last year. And 13.0% consume them four to seven days a week, compared to 12.5% a year ago.

Spending cuts on other products and services

The increases in food prices have led 92.1% of families to cut spending on other products and services. 22.4% indicated that they had reduced spending on bars and restaurants, 20.1% on travel, 16.4% on clothing and footwear, 14.0% on cultural products, 9.7% on electricity, gas and water supplies, 5.2% on transport, and 4.3% on telecommunications services.

A total of 49.2% of consumers indicated that they had changed their usual establishment in search of lower prices. As for the perception of which types of establishments have raised prices the most, the most mentioned are supermarkets, by 35.7%, followed by large supermarkets, by 29.3%. Behind are small stores, mentioned by 20.7%, and food markets, 14.4%.