Is it really cheaper to eat healthily?

GlobalData Consumer 4th August 2020 (Last Updated August 5th, 2020 10:40)

Sometimes it is cheaper to eat healthier, but there is a push towards healthier eating and cooking at home, regardless.

Is it really cheaper to eat healthily?

Sometimes it is cheaper to eat healthier, but there is a push towards healthier eating and cooking at home, regardless.

In the UK, a popular talking point among politicians and pundits is that raw ingredients are cheaper than convenient or low-quality food. A recent example of the genre is this tweet by Conservative Party Member of European Parliament, Annunziata Rees-Mogg:

On the face of it, the argument follows that raw ingredients with fewer additives and processing will be cheaper than the more convenient formats. In several categories this may be the case, although a cursory search on two of the UK’s largest supermarkets turned up exceptions; at the time of writing in the UK, Tesco’s 20% fat minced beef, for instance, is £4.00 per kg compared to Tesco’s 5% fat minced beef at £4.99 per kg. Vegetarian and vegan alternative minces start at £6.25 per kg and only go upwards.

Things become even more complex if we try to compare consumer perceptions of value for money between categories. Someone arguing for greater dietary responsibility in parenting might argue that parents should substitute low-cost custard cream biscuits for low-cost oranges aimed at engaging children for instance, you may opt for Asda’s Garden Gang Super Easy Peelers. When comparing, 400g of the supermarket’s private label Custard Creams biscuits come to £1.10 (4,890kcal) per kg over far more portions; by comparison, the private label Garden Gang Super Easy Peelers come in at £2.18 (468kcal) per kg with fewer portions and much higher perishability.

In 2013, a Harvard meta-analysis attempted to analyze the data from 27 studies from 10 high-income countries that included price data, and found that about $1.50 was spent more per day, per person on a ‘very healthy diet’ high in fruits, nuts, vegetables and fish, compared to a diet with lots of processed foods. To a consumer, $1.50 per day per person doesn’t sound like much, but for a family of four, that amounts to $2,200 per year. Accounting for inflation, that would come to $2,434 per year.

Regardless of the final calculation of pricing, consumers consider themselves conscious of health issues, and this, along with lockdown, has supplied large numbers of people with time to spend cooking at home. GlobalData’s Covid-19 week 4 recovery consumer survey revealed that a full 58% of global consumers say that how a product or service impacts their health and wellbeing always or often influences their choice of product or service, and 34% of global consumers intend to spend slightly or significantly more time on this than before Covid-19. It’s likely, therefore, that raw ingredient producers have an opportunity to push their products, regardless of price point, during Covid-19.