Storm Emma cast a cold eye on our changed eating habits

Our dietary habits have changed dramatically over the decades with a shift from fresh vegetables to ready meals, reports Joyce Fegan

Storm Emma put Irish food habits squarely on the table.

We appear to predominantly eat bread, favour ready-meals over home cooking and seem to be less self-sufficient than ever.

In the snowstorm of 1947, people ran short of flour and had about 50 items to choose from in their local shop.

In March 2018, some supermarkets resorted to rationing sliced pans and this was against a backdrop of having more than 30,000 food products, in 249 grocery categories, from which to choose.

Irish food habits and shopping trends have changed vastly over the intervening decades and the Irish Examiner decided to put anecdotes aside and look directly into the average shopping basket to see exactly what we are buying and how much we are spending.

Whole milk, for the last five years, has been the most frequently bought item in supermarkets in Ireland. Next in line, is the tomato, which comes number two as the most purchased food item every year from 2014, right up until the end of February 2018.

In third place is semi-skimmed milk, again this has come in at number three at the checkout for five consecutive years.

In 2014, mushrooms were the fourth most purchased food, in 2015 this place went to the dessert apple, in 2016, the banana came in number four, in 2017 it was the dessert apple again and in 2018, the banana returned to this spot.

For fifth place, the dessert apple took this place for 2014, 2016 and 2018 and the banana was number five in 2015 and 2017.

Finally in sixth place, the banana held this position in 2014, but it was replaced by sliced ham in 2015 and carrots in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Above are the six groceries whose sales have increased the most over the past five years and can now be found more regularly in the average grocery shop.

All of this data was provided by Kantar Worldpanel Ireland, which is a global analyst of shoppers’ behaviour.

It also looked at the groceries whose sales have increased the most over the past five years and can now be found more regularly in the average shop.

In top spot are berries and currants, which have grown in shopper popularity by 46% from 2014 to 2018. Not surprisingly, in second place is the avocado, which is 33% more popular now than it was five years ago.

Rice cakes came in at number three having grown in favour by 27%. In fourth place are soya and dairy-free products, which have grown in popularity by 24% since 2014. And in fifth place is broccoli, which is 21% more popular than it was five years ago.

Kantar also provided data on the price of the average shopping basket and how many items it contains. So

far this year we are spending €22.90 on average, each time we visit the supermarket. We spent the exact same in 2014, and it dipped to €22.70 in 2015, to €22.60 in 2016 and €22.40 in 2017.

In terms of the average number of items we buy per trip, that figure stands at 13. More broadly, we have spent an additional €96m on groceries over the latest 12 weeks compared to last year and opted for more expensive and branded items.

In terms of where we spend our money, SuperValu remains narrowly ahead of rival Tesco in the tussle for shoppers with the grocery market growing at the fastest rate since January 2017, according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel market share figures.

The grocery sector grew by €80m over the past 12 weeks — a 3.5% increase on the year before, according to Kantar. While SuperValu managed to hold onto top spot by 0.2% with 22.3% of the market share up mid-June, rival Tesco is growing ahead of the market with sales up by 3.8%. It had 22.1% of market share.

Dunnes Stores is in third with 21.6% while German retailers Lidl had 11.7% and Aldi 11.2%. Despite a drop in shopper numbers, Dunnes remains the strongest-growing retailer, increasing value sales 4.5%.

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