Spanish food consumption increased by 1.9 per cent last year compared to 2001, according to the latest data from the country's Ministry of Agriculture (MAPA) announced this week by Agriculture minister, Miguel Arias Cañete.
The figures confirm the continuing increase in annual food consumption which began in 1997. The figures are based on food consumption and expenditure data from 6,000 households, 700 hotels and restaurants and 200 catering organisations.
Total food expenditure in 2002 reached €66.2 billion, a 7.8 per cent increase on the previous year in real terms (i.e. including the impact of inflation) and a 3 per cent rise on a constant currency basis.
Households account for 73.2 per cent of all food expenditure, with restaurants and catering accounting for the remaining 26.8 per cent. But households also saw the biggest increase in spending during 2002, up 2.1 per cent, followed by hotels and restaurants with 1.5 per cent and the catering sector with a decline of 2.6 per cent.
As far as product sectors are concerned, Spaniards consumed 68kg of meat and meat products per capita in 2002, marking a return to traditional consumption levels after several years of reduced consumption linked to problems such as BSE and foot-and-mouth disease. Consumption was up 4 per cent on 2001, while prices rose 4.5 per cent - although this was 4 per cent lower than the increase seen between 2000 and 2001.
Ready meal consumption also increased during the year, with the 16.6 per cent growth attributed to the launch of new added value products, greater convenience and improved taste. But the Ministry urged the food industry not to pursue the development of this important sector at the expense of the nutritional value of the food itself. It also stressed that despite the excellent growth, this sector still accounted for less than 2 per cent of total Spanish food expenditure in 2002.
The data clearly shows that Spanish consumers are becoming increasingly demanding in their food purchases, looking for products of higher quality even if they are more expensive. Thus, sales of Denomination of Origin wine, virgin olive oil and quality-controlled meat products increased during the year, as did demand for 'healthy' foods such as natural or organic produce.
MAPA also said that there was a growing trend towards the Mediterranean Diet - high in fish, vegetables and olive oil - helped by increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of such products.