WOMEN are behind a boom in fast-food consumption particularly from big chains, according to a new report. In a survey of 1200 people, BIS Foodservice found women are the biggest eaters of fast-food making up 56 per cent of the market. Sissel Rosengren, head of BIS Foodservice, said it would be safe to assume that with an increase in two-income families, and therefore less time for cooking, women feel they have to resort to fast food.
In the survey the fast food category includes everything from drive-through hamburgers to chicken wraps, sushi and soup from lunch outlets. It did not include more traditional restaurant takeaway, such as a curry from an Indian restaurant. “Many might assume women are buying fast food for others, but what this report shows is that women are actually more likely to eat fast food than men,” said Ms Rosengren.
“The assumption is that men are typically the fast food eaters. But women are the biggest fast food eaters across all fast food categories, by a healthy majority.” Another misconception is that fast food is the “food of the working class”. Of those surveyed, 35 per cent said they earned between $50,001 and $100,000. Nutritionist Susie Burrell said it is not surprising given the ease of purchase of fast food, the long opening hours of outlets and meal deals, plus the perception that some of these foods are healthier.
“Nutritionally though, such options are notoriously high in saturated fat, refined carbs and salt, making it difficult to really find a ‘healthy’ option,” she said. Continuing uncertain economic times, post-GFC, prompted all Aussies to consume more fast food, spending $15 billion on three billion servings in the past 12 months. “There is a noticeable (food) ‘trade-down’ effect that occurs in any economic downturn,” Ms Rosengren said. The survey also found that there has been a marked change in consumer behaviour, with a preference for the big fat-food franchises and a drop in support for local takeaway outlets.
While independent fast food outlet numbers have declined by 0.3 per cent since 2005, chains have increased in outlet numbers by 5.3 per cent annually over the same period. Snack food chains have increased by 10.8 per cent on average in this period. But Ms Rosengren said independent shops may have themselves to blame. “More often than not, fish and chip stores in Australia will serve frozen chips and battered fish for a price that does not match the quality,” said Rosengren.
“If you go to New Zealand they are competing with the chains by offering quality, fresh fish and hand-cut chips for less than the price of a value meal at most chains. They compete on cost and quality, but in Australia they have slipped to the point where many compete on neither.” But the fast-food boom might be over, with signs emerging it is on the decline as the industry deals with tighter customer budgets. In the past six months, there has been a net decrease of 41 per cent in visits to fast food restaurants. The forecast for the next six months predicts a further decrease of 26 per cent.