Prices of healthier foods rise faster

In the span of a decade, healthier food products have become 22 percent more expensive on average than unhealthier foods (13 percent). Last year, sugar, sweets and ice cream were even cheaper than ten years previously, according to a new analysis conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in collaboration with the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (Voedingscentrum).

Consumer price development
 Price development 2007-2017 (% change 2017 relative to 2007)
All goods and services16.6
Food products (excl. beverages)18.1
of which
Healthier food products22.2
Unhealthier food products12.6
Source: CBS, Netherlands Nutrition Centre

Average retail food prices increased by 18 percent between 2007 and 2017; this is slightly more than the average price increase of all goods and services purchased by consumers (17 percent). The Netherlands Nutrition Centre has classified the product categories of food products and beverages - as applied by CBS for the consumer price index - according to healthier and unhealthier choices. CBS has calculated new price indices based on this classification.

Lower increase in prices of unhealthier products

Unhealthier food products rose less in price than healthier food products. In 2017, ice cream, sugar and sweets were even cheaper than in 2007. Prices of crisps, sauces and dressings, on the other hand, increased less than average, although smoked, dried and salted meats increased slightly more than average.

Price development of some unhealthier food categories
 Price development 2007-2017 (% change 2017 relative to 2007)
Unhealthier food products12.6
of which
Smoked, dried or salted meats20.1
Sauces and dressings4
Ice cream-15.4
Source: CBS, Netherlands Nutrition Centre

Higher price rises for healthier products

Of all healthier products, skimmed and semi-skimmed milk in particular have become more expensive: in 2017, the average retail price was nearly 60 percent up on ten years previously. In the span of a decade, egg prices rose by 37 percent; fresh fruit went up by 28 percent on average. Dried fruit and nuts also rose relatively sharply. On the other hand, fresh vegetables increased less than average (9 percent).

Increases in the price of fresh fruit and vegetables depend partly on the weather conditions. These may cause good or poor harvests, which in turn affect the final retail price paid by consumers. For example, the milk price increase in shops can be attributed to higher prices at the farm gate. Other major factors which affect the consumer retail prices of food are trade margins, labour and transportation costs.

Price development of some healthier food categories
 Price development 2007-2017 (% change 2017 relative to 2007)
Healthier food products22.2
of which
Fresh skimmed and semi-skimmed milk58.6
Dried fruit and nuts30.1
Margarine and vegetable oils29.3
Fresh or chilled fruit28.1
Fresh or chilled fish19.7
Fresh or chilled vegetables8.9
Source: CBS, Netherlands Nutrition Centre

Higher price increase also for healthier beverages

Just like solid food products and dairy, beverages show a rising average price trend. In 2017, the healthier beverages (water, coffee and tea) were 30 percent more expensive on average than in 2007. The average price increase of other, unhealthier beverages was lower at 21 percent. However, within this category, soft drinks and beer did go up relatively more sharply.

Price development of beverages
 Price development 2007-2017 (% change 2017 relative to 2007)
Healthier beverages 29.9
of which
Mineral water or spring water33.0
Unhealthier beverages20.6
of which
Soft drinks32.3
Spirit drinks14.2
Fruit and vegetable juices12.3
Source: CBS, Netherlands Nutrition Centre

Relatively substantial food price increase in 2017

At 2.7 percent, the increase in food prices was relatively sharp in 2017 compared to one year previously. Between 2007 and 2017, a sharper year-on-year price increase was only recorded once: in 2008. On average, healthier foods rose twice as much in price over 2017 as unhealthier foods. Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk in particular became more expensive.

Annual price development of food products
 Total (% year-on-year change)Unhealthier food products (% year-on-year change)Healthier food products (% year-on-year change)
Source: CBS, Netherlands Nutrition Centre

The higher price increase of healthier food products is not an isolated one. During eight out of the ten years between 2007 and 2017, prices of healthier foods rose more sharply than prices of unhealthier foods.

Spending on food

In 2016, food and beverage purchases for consumption at home accounted for 13 percent of total consumer expenditure. Per consumer, this came down to an average 6.50 euros per day, according to data available in the National Accounts of CBS. According to the National Institute for Family Finance Information (NIBUD), an average adult is able to eat from the Wheel of Five for approximately 6 euros per day. This amount may be higher or lower depending on sex, age and household size.