Tag Archives: Consumer behaviour

Who Eats The Most Pasta?

If you were waiting for a shock-surprise answer on this, I’ll have to disappoint you. The most pasta-crazed nation on Earth is, of course, Italy. Italians scoffed 26kg of pasta per head in 2012. Neighbouring Switzerland, by comparison, managed only 11.7kg and Germany 8.7kg.

Spätzle. A bit boring without any creamy sauce on it, I admit...

Spätzle. A bit boring without lashings of creamy sauce on it…

This latter figure did surprise me a bit, because I grew up in Germany, and we sure ate a lot of pasta. We also made our own, a (Swabian) regional variety called “Spätzle”, made from a runny dough dropped into boiling water. (Note: home-made pasta is not included in the data quoted, which skews it slightly.)

You need this implement to make Spätzle. Unless you're a pro, then all you need is a wooden board and a knife.

An implement for Spätzle making found in every southern German kitchen. If you’re a true pro, then all you need (apart from a pot of boiling water) is a wooden board and a knife.

When I moved to the UK more than twenty years ago, I did notice that less pasta seemed to be eaten there compared with Germany. Not sure what the figures were back then, but in 2012, UK per capita pasta consumption stood at 5.3kg, a third less Germany’s, and on a par with that of Latvia and Egypt. The US is even further down the pasta aficionado rankings with just 4.2kg per head, which is below that of Russia with 6.9kg.

Crisis In Pastaland – Premiumisation to the rescue!

You may be surprised to hear this, but not all is well in the world of pasta. Pasta consumption is falling in its European heartland, and also in the US. In Italy, consumption plummeted from 32.5kg in 1998 to the aforementioned 26kg in 2012.

Western European average consumption declined from 9.9kg in 2006 to 9.2kg in 2012 – a small, yet significant downward trajectory. This is partly due to competition from other carbohydrate foods, such as rice and noodles, driven by the proliferation of ‘ethnic’ cuisines, like Indian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese food.

For manufacturers of pasta, this is a total disaster. A solution had to be found.

So, what do you do when you can’t sell MORE of your product? Simple: You charge more for smaller quantities. Welcome to the concept of ‘premiumisation’.

Premiumisation is a favourite tactic employed by the food and beverage industries to get more money for less product, and you can see this happening in every product category. Juice manufacturers, for example, will often resort to simply repackaging a within-an-inch-of-its-life sterilised, reconstituted juice, and then having supermarkets display it in the chiller cabinet instead of on a ‘normal’ (ambient) shelf. That way, the juice appears to be ‘fresh’ and ‘premium’, and lemmings like you and I will fork out double. It’s all in the presentation, you see, not so much the actual content.

A perfect example of premiumisation, replete with a little tale about its alleged origins augmented by the emphatic assurance that you’re buying the REAL thing to make it sound ‘authentic’. ‘Authenticity’ is another key tool in the premiumisation game.
I do wonder what would happen if you served this up to a feisty Puglian granny? My guess it she’d stuff those little ear things right up your where-the-sun-don’t-shine…

In the world of pasta, the obvious solution was to start selling us ‘fresh pasta’, because ‘fresh’ equals premium. The fresh pasta invasion started sometime during in the 1990s, and a multitude of different shapes and brands can now be found in every pasta-consuming nation’s supermarket chiller cabinet section.

The strategy worked a treat: retail value sales of chilled/fresh pasta in the United Kingdom, for example, tripled over the last decade. In France and Germany, where retail value sales of dull old dried pasta remained static, chilled/fresh pasta sales rocketed by 35% and 115%, respectively.

The category, which has suffered the heaviest losses is that of canned pasta, because food in tins is generally viewed as low-end, i.e. the antithesis of ‘premium’.

Not even Waitrose can make this look appetising...

Not even Waitrose can make this look sexy…

So, what is your favourite pasta dish? Creamy or tomatoey? Baked or boiled?? Any good pasta anecdotes? Spill…!

[For data source, click here]

Who Eats The Most Pizza?

Ever met anyone who didn’t like pizza? Neither have I. It’s probably the most wildly successful and non-controversial globalised food export that has ever come out of any one country, in this case Italy. Sure, one could argue that cola and burgers can be found just about anywhere on the planet, although these items are maligned in some regions as ‘a manifestation of American imperialism’.

Nobody could ever accuse a slice of three-cheese pizza of corrupting young people’s morals or furthering anyone’s political objectives. Pizza is harmless, delicious, and endlessly customisable – just toss a couple of local ingredients on top and hey presto, that pizza is YOURS!

Japanese seaweed pizza... YUM!

Japanese seaweed pizza… YUM!

As for tackling the question posed in the headline, I may not be able to come up with a totally satisfying answer. What I can tell you, though, is who are the most avid consumers of frozen and chilled supermarket pizza, and who spends the most in pizza joints.

Frozen vs. chilled – no contest!
Frozen pizza is far more widely available (and far cheaper!) than chilled. In 2012, 1.4 million tonnes of frozen pizza where shifted by retailers, compared to just 332,000 tonnes of chilled.

Spain, the UK and France were the top global markets for chilled pizza, while in Russia, Hungary, Argentina ad Turkey, for example, this type of product is not available in supermarkets. In the US, chilled pizza sales are dwarfed by frozen: 473,000 tonnes vs 25,000 tonnes in 2012.

Although the US is the world’s leading frozen pizza market, its per capita consumption was a comparatively low 1.5kg per annum in 2012. Norway leads, with 4.4kg. Germany, Ireland, the UK and Austria are next in line. Italians mustered 0.9kg.

Scandinavians spend most on pizza fast food
Italy, despite appearing reluctant to fully embrace supermarket pizza, topped 2012 global per capita spending charts for takeaway/home delivery pizza, and Italians also splashed out the most in full-service pizza restaurants.

Sweden and Finland splurged top dollar, per capita, on pizza fast food, US$62.8 and US$58.7, respectively, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Israel. Italy came 5th, and the USA 9th, with a miserly US$8.4. But you have to remember that food, and especially fast food, is considerably cheaper in the US than it is in Scandinavia, so this doesn’t tell us much about the actual quantities scoffed.

China is fast developing a liking for takeaway pizza and for pizza restaurants, though you’d be hard pushed to find one in a supermarket. Why is this? Because Chinese kitchens are not habitually equipped with ovens. In such a densely populated country with sparse fuel resources, cooking has evolved to be quick and, above all, fuel efficient. Little ovens designed to be placed on a kitchen work surface that are suitable for heating up pizza are the preserve of comparatively well-off middle class consumers.

Got any pizza-related gems to share from your country? I’d love to hear your thoughts and anecdotes.

What is your most reviled pizza topping? I can’t stand pineapple on pizza. It just doesn’t belong there!!!

[For data source, click here]

Who Consumes The Most Sports Drinks?

Have you ever wondered about who actually needs sports drinks? Answer: [Almost] Nobody. Hydration, electrolytes, isoschmonics –  it’s yet another example of 1st-rate marketing hoopla.

Sure, if you’re running a marathon, or playing at Wimbledon this week and the sun happens to be glimpsing out in between alternating episodes of drizzle and hailstorms, these concoctions may have the edge over water. But that’s not what and who this sickly sweet swill is aimed at. If  manufacturers set out to make drinks solely for committed athletes, they’d be out of business faster than you could swing a hockey stick.

Sports drinks are targeted at adolescent boys (and adolescent men). I mean, who in their right mind would drink something that’s blue? It’s all about feeding guys’ fantasies that they aren’t fallible, feeble, fragile little mortals, but… uhm… ‘performance machines’. And these, as everybody knows, aren’t fuelled by frothy strawberry milkshakes topped with chocolate sprinkles, but something more akin to petrol.

Every manchild knows that drinking this...

Every manchild knows that drinking this…

...will turn you into this!

…will turn him into that!

Now the statsy bit. In 2012, nearly 12 million litres of sports drinks were sold globally. To add some context & comparison: cola sales amounted to ten times as much, orange carbonates to just under double, while energy drinks sales came to about half of those of sports drinks.

It's blue, of course

It’s blue, of course

The leading global sports drinks brand (by annual retail value sales,  2012) is Gatorade (by PepsiCo), followed by Powerade and Aquarius (both Coca-Cola-owned brands). In fourth place is Pocari Sweat owned by Japanese company Otsuka Holdings. Only in Asia could you sell a brand with a name like that…

That explains it all...

That explains everything….

In per capita consumption terms, the US leads the league table, guzzling 17.6 litres a head in 2012, followed by Denmark with 13.8 litres, Japan (10.7 litres), Malaysia (8.2 litres), Spain (6 litres) and Peru (5.4 litres) Peru?! The mind boggles.

Among the countries with a surprisingly abstemious consumption are Germany (2.1 litres), Italy (2.4 litres), Switzerland (1.1 litres) and  Mexico at 2.6 litres. The reason Mexico’s low sports drinks intake seems baffling at first glance is that the country has the second-highest global consumption levels of soft drinks in the world (after the US). I have no doubt that this paradox is squarely down to price – sports drinks tend to be premium positioned, meaning that they sell at a much higher price point than standard pop, and so the average Mexican consumer won’t be able to afford to buy this stuff in any great quantity.

Oh, and Austrians downed a paltry 0.4 litres of sports drinks per capita in 2012. That must be due to the fact that this little Alpine nation, aka. home of Red Bull, is totally hooked on Energy drinks, and in that category they lead the global consumption charts. There are only so many chemical cocktails a human body can imbibe without short-circuiting…

For an article on global soft drinks consumption and preferences, click here.

For an article on energy drinks, click here.

[For data source, click here]

What Is Wrong With Infant Formula in China?

Back in February, I came across an article in the food industry trade news, announcing that a petition had been lodged with President Obama(!?) to help alleviate the infant formula shortage in China. How embarrassing for the Chinese government, I couldn’t help thinking, that the country is having to ask arch enemy no.2 (no.1 being Japan) to keep its newest crop of citizens alive.

As anyone who watches the news knows, China is the land of the food safety scandal. The biggest incident concerning milk formula played out in 2008, when 300,000 babies got sick (and some died) because of melamine contaminated infant formula. Melamine is an industrial chemical that boosts the apparent protein of watered-down milk.

Adults consuming the occasional melamine-contaminated dairy product do not come to any harm, but for babies totally reliant on infant formula as their sole source of nutrition, plus an underdeveloped renal system to boot, the effects are disastrous, including long-term kidney damage.

The melamine scandal implicated Chinese and foreign baby food manufacturers alike – the adulteration practice was endemic throughout the country, which meant that pretty much everybody ended up buying at least some adulterated milk. Manufacturers’ quality tests checked the protein content, but not for the presence of melamine. Food adulterers, like hackers, are always a step ahead of safety protocols.

Chinese officials disposing of contaminated milk formula. [Photo Credit: Chinadivide.com]

Chinese officials disposing of contaminated milk formula. [Photo Credit: Chinadivide.com]

I wrote my MSc dissertation on food safety in China in the aftermath of the melamine crisis, and so my mind is still primed for news on this topic. The background to the ‘Obama milk formula petition’ story was that Hong Kong had placed a limit of two milk powder cans per person that could be taken back to the Chinese Mainland, in order prevent its store shelves from being perpetually stripped of the product. Any violators caught in the act could face a fine of up to U$64,500 and and two years in prison.

Then, a couple of months later in April, I read that Danone, the world’s number three manufacturer of milk formula (after Nestlé and Mead Johnson), asked UK supermarkets not let customers pass the checkout with any more than two units of its products, which include brands like Aptamil and Cow & Gate.

Danone said this at the time: “We understand that the increased demand is being fuelled by unofficial exports to China to satisfy the needs of parents who want Western brands for their babies. We do not export our powdered baby milk, which is made for UK babies, and labelled accordingly.”

UK babies obviously have quite different inner workings from Chinese ones…

Similar calls for purchase limits were made to retailers in Australia and elsewhere.

Chinese parents are not only reluctant to trust domestic milk formula brands, but also those of big foreign companies, like Nestlé, Danone etc, who choose to manufacture in China.  This is perfectly understandable; even assuming that these multinational giants have now tightened up their supply chain supervision to such an extent that willful adulteration no longer poses a threat (and they certainly have made tremendous efforts in that direction), Chinese consumers cannot be sure that a Nestlé labelled tin really contains a Nestlé product. Counterfeiting is rife in China, and is by no means limited to DVDs and Rolex watches.

Parents, who have relatives abroad kind enough to send them a regular supply, are very lucky indeed. Many see themselves forced to source foreign-made milk formula from a kind of ‘black market’, which charges anything upwards from a 100% premium on milk formula brands, whose Chinese-made versions are already expensive to buy. Remember, this is a country, where only a few years ago, several people were trampled to death in a stampede in a Carrefour supermarket running a promotion on cut-price cooking oil. Not iPads, but cooking oil.

You may well be asking the obvious question… why don’t Chinese mothers en masse opt for exclusive breastfeeding, if formula feed poses such a risk, on top of being hideously expensive? Sadly, many mothers fear that China’s food supply is so contaminated, they will pass on a cocktail of harmful toxins to their babies through their breast milk. They feel that the only guaranteed safe food for their offspring is foreign-made milk formula. It’s a desperate state of affairs indeed.

Who Eats The Most Fish? And Why Do Spanish Supermarkets Smell So Bad…?

If you ask any German living abroad what food they miss most, they will tell you bread. For the Spanish, it’s fish. They are puzzled when they arrive in countries like Germany or the UK and can’t find sixty different types of crustaceans laid out in all their colourful glory at every supermarket fish counter. The paltry fish offering in the UK and Ireland is particularly disconcerting to a Spaniard, because on an island, there surely should be lots of fish…?!?

Spain has the second biggest per capita fish and seafood consumption in Europe –  In 2012, they managed 28kg (down from 33kg in 2007, as a result of the economic crisis). The Portuguese chomped their way through 47kg, and Taiwan, the world’s leading consumer, clocked an incredible 85kg per capita. The UK mustered just 13kg, Germany 9kg (about the same as Australians) and the US a meagre 5kg.

Fish CounterEvery Spanish supermarket features an enormous fish counter, situated a hair’s breadth from the entrance. So, the very first thing that hits you as you enter is an overpowering stench of fish. Now, if a UK or German supermarket decided to follow this strategy, it would be out of business in a week. Personally, I love fish, and I do enjoy gazing at Spanish supermarkets’ vibrant fish displays, but the smell turns my stomach every time.

In UK and German supermarkets the (comparatively) miniscule, sterilised and deodorised fish counter is usually situated somewhere at the back. And, in striking contrast to the Spanish scenario, as you step through the sliding doors, what usually floods your olfactory system is the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread. In German supermarkets, it’s the bakery that’s almost always by the entrance.

This is no accident – it’s is how grocery retailers in Germany and the UK entice shoppers into the store and attempt to ‘enhance the shopping experience’ of the weekly trolley trudge. (Translation: they try to make you hungry so you buy more. Works well with bakery, not so much with fish, though …).

Despite the delectable wafts emanating from the bakery section, however, there’s no proper baking going on in there. Oh no. Every twelve minutes, some gawky seventeen-year-old wrapped in a blue hairnet bungs a tray of factory-made, pre-baked ‘baguettes’ in the oven, and hey presto, the glorious smell just keeps on permeating the aisles. The fish never stood a chance.

Do any of you have any (wh)iffy supermarket observations to share…?

OK... maybe not ALL the fish is pretty...

OK… maybe not ALL fish is attractive…

[For data source click here]

Which Countries Consume The Most Meat?

It won’t come as a surprise that, for sheer population size, China consumed the most fresh meat in 2012 – a whopping 81 million tonnes, which is just over one third of the global total.

[Let me just quickly point out that the data I’m quoting in this post pertains to fresh uncooked and unprocessed meat, including that bought from deli counters, and that packaged & processed meats (e.g. frozen, canned, etc) are excluded.]

So, which country do you think leads in global fresh meat per capita consumption…? Tip: It’s NOT the US. Not even close. Nor the sausage-crazed Germans.

I’ll put you out of your misery: Argentinians are the world’s biggest meatheads with 121kg consumed per person in 2012. It’s all down to their famous barbecues, I reckon… Next in line are Hong Kong (114kg), Portugal (110kg), Austria (105kg) and Australia (102kg). The US is in 10th place with 76kg, while Canada is just ahead of its southern cousins by 1kg.

At the rear end of the table is India, with less than 4kg per head – any self-respecting Argentinian would probably snarf that in a single weekend. There are two main reasons for India’s low meat uptake: Between 30-40% of its population are vegetarians, and one third live below the poverty line.

A fabulously on-topic sculpture, snapped at Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid last weekend

A fabulously on-topic sculpture, snapped at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid last weekend

Who likes what?
Time to talk preferences. Globally, pork is the most popular fresh meat (38% of the total), followed by poultry (35%), beef (20%) and then we have, all aggregated into one on the database, lamb/mutton/goat.

The Chinese sure love their pork, it accounts for 64% of fresh meat eaten in China, followed by poultry. This order of preference is shared by Germany, France and Ireland. Poultry, on the other hand, leads in the UK and the US, followed by more expensive beef.

I can’t not mention canned meat, which is, as already pointed out, not included in the above stats. 2.8 million tonnes were consumed in 2012 globally. I know most of you are thinking ‘Spam’ right now, but this isn’t the world’s leading meat mulch, after all. It’s being outdone by two Chinese brands, Shineway (I reckon that’s ‘sinewy’ misspelled…) and Jinluo. Spam manages to scramble into third place, phew.

As you might have guessed from this, China is responsible for half the world’s canned meat consumption. Russia is in second place, followed by the US, Germany and the UK. In per capita consumption terms, however, Portugal leads, while China’s only in 17th place.

[Data Source]

Who Are The World’s Biggest Snack Food Addicts?

When I first arrived in the UK in 1991, one of the things I noticed (being obsessed with food an’ all) was the ubiquitous little bag of Walkers crisps. I wondered whether it was perhaps against the law to pack a lunch box without it… and if ever you – heaven forbid! – happened to forget to pop one in, every vending machine in the country sported at least six different flavours. People even stuffed them into their sandwiches (the crisps minus the bag), as if it were the most normal lunchtime activity in the world.

A bag of Walker's infamous salt and vinegar flavour. Warning for the uninitiated: The first acrid whiff from a freshly opened bag will knock you out

A bag of Walker’s infamous salt and vinegar flavour. Warning for the uninitiated: The first acrid whiff from a freshly opened bag will probably knock you off your socks

Sure, we had potato chips in Germany, but they were sold in much bigger bags, invariably dusted with paprika powder, and intended for parties. The 30g bag for non-caring-non-sharing individual consumption had not yet caught on.

The Potato Chip Is King Of Snacks
In 2012, a total of 12 billion tonnes of sweet and savoury packaged snacks were consumed globally. This includes chips/crisps (“chips” is the US term, “crisps” is used in the UK), extruded snacks, nuts, tortilla/corn chips, popcorn, fruit snacks, pretzels, etc.

Extruded snacks

Extruded snacks

Chips/crisps lead the global snacks table, with 2.7 billion tonnes noshed in 2012, followed by extruded snacks. Lay’s (owned by PepsiCo Inc, which also owns the British brand Walkers) is the world’s leading snack food brand. Next in line are Doritos, Cheetos and Pringles.

Which nation snacks the most?
You will probably have guessed the answer. Yes, it’s the US. 11kg per capita in 2012. The runners-up of snackster gluttons are Ireland, the UK, both with 9kg per head per annum, followed by Norway and Spain. Germans mustered a mere 3kg and Italians 2kg.

And who prefers what?
The Brits really do love their crisps – they account for 40% of all snacks sold (by volume) in the UK. Needless to say, Walkers leads. In the US, tortilla chips are more popular than potato chips, while in Canada, it’s the other way around.

Potato chips are Germany’s leading snack, too, pretzels come in second, which makes sense, seeing as this is where they come from in the first place . Turkey is clearly on a health drive, with fruit snacks and nuts in the lead.

A typical snack offering in Spain, served automatically whenever you order a cold drink in a bar, cafe or restaurant. Contains an assortment of salted peanuts, fried broad beans, maize kernels, chick peas (garbanzo beans), raisins, crackers, etc.

A typical snack offering in Spain, served automatically whenever you order a cold drink in a bar, cafe or restaurant. Contains an assortment of salted peanuts, fried broad beans, maize kernels, chick peas (garbanzo beans), raisins, crackers, etc.

If you’re partial to reading amusing snack food reviews, check out this guy’s blog. It helps if you’re into Star Wars… 😉

[Data Source]

Who Eats The Most Chocolate… And The Most Ice Cream?

For those of you who know me personally, this isn’t exactly a newsflash: It’s not just cakes for me. My sweet tooth stops at (almost) nothing. If I had to choose between chocolate, ice cream or cake for my last meal, I’d be hard pushed for a decision. Not everyone is such a competent allrounder, I realise. In fact, there are some pretty divisive national preferences.

[N.B.: The reason I’m not including my beloved cakes here is the difficulty of getting easily comparable data. Although the database I’m using does feature cakes under bakery products, this refers to packaged cakes, excluding the home-made component, which, I should imagine, comprises a major part of all cakeage consumed. Chocolate confectionery and ice cream, on the other hand, are mostly industrially produced, making for a more reliable comparison.]

Shock revelation number one: Ice cream is more popular than chocolate
On a global basis and going by weight, almost twice as much ice cream was eaten in 2012 than chocolate – 12.8 million tonnes vs. 7.3 million tonnes, which works out at 1.8kg and 1kg per head, respectively.

Now, for chocolate confectionery, I would have plonked for Switzerland and Belgium spearheading the per capita consumption charts, but I’m slightly off. The UK led in 2012 with 11kg per person, followed by Switzerland (9.5kg), Ireland (9.4kg) and Germany (8.2kg).

As for ice cream, I expected the US to come out tops, but wrong again! It’s Australia and New Zealand claiming the top scoop, with 13.7kg and 12.6kg per head in 2012, respectively. Next up is Finland with 10.4kg. The US and Canada follow in fourth and fifth position with 9.4kg and 8.2kg. Italy, the spiritual home of ice cream, ranks fifth.

National preferences – chocolate vs. ice cream

Those frequent scenes in sitcoms and movies where the girl, after a tiff with her boyfriend, pulls a tub of ice cream out of the freezer to console herself, always struck me as particularly ‘American’. Is it true that people in the US prefer ice cream while Europeans are more partial to chocolate?

Well, it seems the US most definitely has a proclivity for ice cream over chocolate. US consumers made do with just 4.4kg of chocs per head in 2012, which is less than half of their ice consumption. Australians’ ice cream intake exceeded that of chocolate close to three times. Britons, however, gobbled almost double the amount of chocolate compared to ice cream. Must have something to do with the weather…

Italians, no big surprise there, exhibit a notable preference for ice cream over chocolate, putting away 7.3kg vs. 2.6kg, respectively. French tastes, by comparison, are evenly weighted, with just a bit over 4kg per capita consumed of both. Belgium also has a fairly balanced approach, albeit slightly more weighted towards the chocolatey end of things.

This (evidently local) car was parked just opposite Toledo cathedral. Not that they sell ice cream in there, although it might boost attendance if they did... For a developed country economy, the Spanish are quite abstemious where sweet stuff is concerned. In 2012, they managed 5.8kg of ice cream, which is borderline respectable, but a measly 2.1kg of chocolate

This (evidently local) car was parked just opposite Toledo cathedral. Not that they sell ice cream in there, although it might boost attendance if they did… For a developed country economy, the Spanish are quite abstemious where sweet stuff is concerned. In 2012, they managed 5.8kg of ice cream, which is borderline respectable, but a measly 2.1kg of chocolate

What are the most popular brands?

Going by annual retail value sales rather than total volume sales this time, Cadbury’s, a British brand that was bought by US food giant Kraft (now called Mondelez International) in 2010, is the world’s most popular chocolate brand, followed by Snickers and M&M’s, both owned by Mars Inc. Hershey’s ranks fourth, Galaxy/Dove (Mars) fifth and Reese’s, also owned by Hershey Co., sixth.

Globally, the three biggest chocolate confectionery manufacturers are Mars, Mondelez International (formerly known as Kraft) and Nestlé. Yes, yes, there are hundreds of good reasons to boycott Nestlé, which is still world’s biggest food company… but flash one Chunky KitKat at me, and they all melt away… I’m just weak 😦

In ice cream, Magnum is the global favourite, followed by Cornetto, and Dreyer’s/Edy’s in third place. The first two are owned by Unilever, the latter by Nestlé. Häagen-Dazs ranks fourth. Unilever and Nestlé are the world’s biggest ice cream makers.


[For data source, click here]

Which Countries Consume The Most Soft Drinks?

This week, I’m taking a look at global soft drinks consumption. Soft drinks comprises a large range of non-alcoholic drinks, including bottled water, carbonates, concentrates (powdered or liquid drinks you add water to), juice, ready-to-drink tea and coffee (those bottled ones that are usually consumed chilled), as well as sports and energy drinks.

Mexico and the US lead in sugary carbonates
Let’s start with the category, which probably first springs to mind when we hear the term “soft drinks”: fizzy pop. The human race downed 220 billion litres of the sticky stuff in 2012.

The most avid consumers, no surprises there, are Americans. They imbibed 165 litres per capita in 2012, followed by neighbouring Mexico with 146 litres. Argentina is third in line. The emerging markets of China and India mustered a paltry 9 litres and 3 litres, respectively, but they are sure to catch up eventually.

Cola drinks accounted for 57% of carbonated soft drinks (by volume) in 2012. And when it comes to cola, Mexico is even ahead of the US! Mexicans consumed 108 litres per head in 2012, compared to Americans’ 82 litres. India and Indonesia have among the lowest consumption rates at barely over 1 litre.


Germany’s leading bottled water brand

Germans like their water sparkling, Americans don’t.
Bottled water is the most-consumed soft drink on Earth. In 2012, we guzzled almost 242 billion litres of it. The top five leading countries for per capita bottled water consumption are Mexico, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Germany.

Germany leads in carbonated bottled water at 109 litres per head in 2012. Still water amounted to just 13 litres, so Germans clearly like their sparkles. In the US, it’s pretty much the other way around – Americans consumed 90 litres of still water per head and less than three litres of the carbonated stuff. Perrier needs to work a bit harder, it seems…

Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Saudi Arabia drink the most fruit juice per capita, with 60 litres, 48 litres, 47 litres, 42 and 40 litres, respectively in 2012.
In sports drinks, the US leads with 18 litres per head, followed by Denmark (14 litres), Japan (11 litres), Malaysia (8 litres), Spain (6 litres) and, …wait for it… Peru! with 5 litres. Must be all that jogging up and down those Andes…

If you’re interested in energy drinks consumption, click here.

To read more about global sports drinks consumption, click here.

For a post on alcoholic drinks consumption, click here.

[For data source, click here]

Global Consumerism: Who Eats The Most Fast Food?

Fast Food. Everybody loves it. C’mon, admit it, even if greasy burgers aren’t your thing, you like at least one type of fast food. Sesame noodle stir fry? Take-away sushi? Falafel wrap? Raspberry-topped frozen yoghurt on the go?

The fast food industry is HUGE. Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of the figures involved, global consumer expenditure on fast food in 2011 totalled US$583.2 billion. That’s not just people gorging themselves on burgers, fries and buckets of coke, mind, but it encompasses all manner of fast food, including Asian, Middle Eastern and bakery fast food, etc.

The largest global market for fast food is – no surprise here – the US, followed by China, Japan, Brazil and the UK. In terms of annual per capita spend, Australia leads (ahead of the US!) with US$653 in 2011. US consumers forked out US$630 per person, closely followed by Canadians.

In per capita terms, the US clocked up the highest spend on burger fast food, a whopping US$295 in 2011. Surprisingly, France also features in the top ten, with US$116 per head.

The Romans brought fast food to Toledo. Erm... OK... maybe not, but this Toledo restaurant seems to want to convince us...

The Romans brought fast food to Toledo. Erm… OK… maybe not, but this Toledo restaurant seems keen to convince us!

Burger fast food is the biggest fast food category, accounting for almost one third of total global fast food in terms of value. After burgers, Asian fast food is the second-largest category, and the fastest growing.

McDonald's is the world's leading fast food chain. As you can see, Toledo's historic town centre has not been spared

McDonald’s is the world’s leading fast food chain. As you can see, Toledo’s historic town centre has not been spared

Pizza fast food was worth nearly US$10 billion in 2011. Again, the US is the largest market, followed by Italy and Russia. In per capita terms, though, Swedes and Finns spent the most. Scandinavians are well known for being totally pizza crazy, they also top the per capita spend charts of frozen supermarket pizza.

Why cough up €2.50 for an abstemious slice, when you can get twenty times as much food for only ten times the price?!

Why cough up €2.50 for an abstemious slice, when you can get twenty times as much grub for only ten times the price?!

As you’d perhaps expect, the UK is the biggest marked for fish fast food. Yes, that’s down to the infamous ‘national dish’ that is fish’n’chips, on which the Brits fritter away US$2.3 billion annually – that’s one third of what the category is worth on a global level.


[For data source, click here]