Apparent consumption in this publication measures the amount of food purchased from sales data, but does not measure actual consumption as it does not account for food purchases from fast food outlets, cafes and restaurants, home grown or produced foods, wild harvested foods, or foods not consumed due to waste or storage.
The significant change in consumer behaviour associated with COVID-19 means that the estimates from March 2020 to June 2020 will over represent consumption due to increases in home inventories and households substituting home prepared meals instead of dining out. For more general information see Impact of COVID-19 below and each of the relevant topic sections for the specific impact of the March to June 2020 period on the results. For general information on the scope and methods see Explanatory Notes.
Impact of COVID-19
- Following the Australian outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in March 2020, restrictions were progressively implemented by the Australian government on citizens' activities, aiming to limit opportunities for the virus to spread through community transmission.
- A major behavioural response by Australian householders to the highly uncertain circumstances was an increase in purchasing of household supplies from supermarkets, resulting in a sales spike from early March which peaked in the week beginning 16 March 2020.
- Retail sales of food (from Retail Trade, Australia) increased in value by an estimated 24% from February to March 2020, followed by a 17% decline from March to April 2020. Further Retail Trade analysis estimated that the value of sales of non-perishable foods increased by 39% from February to March 2020, while perishable foods increased by 22%.
- The greater weight of foods purchased from March 2020 is consistent with results from the ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey which showed:
- 47% of respondents buying extra household supplies in March, which fell to 21% by late April/early May
- 29% of respondents reporting consuming less take-away and delivered meals in late April/early May
- 38% reporting more cooking and baking in late April/early May.
- The large disruption to the usual pattern of consumer behaviour may be expected to be reflected in significant changes in the overall apparent consumption of food and nutrients by Australians. However, caution is needed in interpreting the impact on the true change in food consumption based on the unprecedented sales spike, because unlike a more typical period where household inventories may be assumed to be held constant, the purchasing in March 2020 likely reflects an increase of home inventories. In addition, a further distortion impacting the change in apparent consumption may result from households substituting supermarket purchased foods in place of meals from cafes and restaurants.
- The impact of COVID-19 on apparent consumption by amount, dietary energy and analysis against the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) is discussed in each relevant section below.