Research conducted for Woolworths by Bernard Salt of KPMG showed that Australians’ shopping habits have changed significantly over the past 25 years. Just 35% of an average family’s food budget is spent on the main weekly shop – and that primary shopping day is increasingly likely to be Sunday, not Saturday. The research also linked stay-at-home adult children to higher household food spending and cast light on the changing contents of the trolley.

The study, called Trolley Trends,  included analysis of statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Household Expenditure Surveys and Censuses of Population and Housing, and the Reserve Bank of Australia, along with analysis of  the shopping habits, trends and spending of 9500 Woolworths Everyday Rewards members over a 24-month period ending 31 July 2013.

In introducing the study, Tjeerd Jegen, Managing Director of Woolworths Supermarkets, said: “Food shopping is a reality for almost every Australian and offers a unique way of tracking the changes in their lives. With more than 19 million customers shopping at a Woolworths store every week, the trends that we see at the checkout provide a clear indicator of who we are as a nation.”

While the study found that Australians were earning two and a half times more than they were 25 years ago, the percentage of income we were spending on food had fallen by three percentage points. Food was the  largest item in the budget in 1984, but in this study came second behind housing costs, which consumed the largest share of income at 18%.

In 2013 Australians are eating less meat, fewer potatoes and more fruit and vegetables than in the mid ’80s.  We’re eating out more than ever, with 31% of our food dollars spent on restaurants, takeaway or school lunches – up nine percentage points from 1984.

The study was initially available on the Woolworths website but has since been removed. Here’s a summary of some of the main findings:

  • The big weekly shop is dead. On average, Australians spend just 34 per cent of their weekly food budget on their primary shopping day – they are increasingly “using the supermarket like a pantry”, according to the report.
  • Sunday is becoming the new Saturday for supermarket shopping, with 18 per cent of Australians now making Sunday their primary shopping day, up 3 per cent since 2012.
  • Households headed by a person aged 48-49 years spend $3,548 more on food and non-alcoholic beverages each year than the average Australian
  • There was a 31.5 per cent increase in the number of children still living with their parents between 2006 and 2011 – reflected in higher food costs for longer for many households
  • More than a third of the items in Woolworths’ supermarket trolleys are purchased on promotion.
  • The proportion of items purchased on promotion at Woolworths was up 10 per cent per annum.
  • The potato was Australia’s side dish of choice in 1984, accounting for 72 per cent of side dish purchases. This had dropped to 39 per cent, with the popularity of pasta, noodles and rice increasing to make up 61 per cent of side dish purchases.
  • The ‘meat and three veg’ standard meal of the 1970s and 1980s has gone “by the wayside”.
  • In the 1990s Mediterranean produce, including zucchini, garlic, eggplant and red capsicum, reached “critical mass” in Woolworths supermarkets.
  • Medjool dates, figs, almonds and pomegranate were among the Middle Eastern items that reached “critical mass” at Woolworths in the years since 2010.
  • Current trends include ‘superfoods’ including kale, blueberries and sweet potato, which have become part of the standard line in the Woolworths fresh product section.
  • Housing costs (rent or mortgage payments) account for the largest share of household expenditure (18 per cent) and saw the single largest increase in household expenditure since 1984, up 380 per cent.
  • Food and non-alcoholic drink spending currently accounts for the second largest percentage of household expenditure (17 per cent).
  • Generation X “has emerged as Generation debt” – more than half of all households headed by a Gen X member have a home loan and one third have a credit card debt.