10 March 2017

The 2015 survey represents the 75th year of Family Food and its predecessors.

Family Food has existed in one form or another for 75 years. It is conducted annually and is a valuable source of what we spend, what we buy and what we eat. It also looks at trends in food purchases and the nutrient intakes from these purchases.

In July 1940 the Ministry of Food began collecting records on food purchases and expenditure.  This survey, then known as the National Food Survey was originally set up to monitor the adequacy of the diet of urban ‘working class’ households in wartime, but it was extended in 1950 to become representative of households throughout Great Britain. It is now known as the Family Food Survey.

How our eating habits have changed - facts from across the decades
  • In 1945, 30% of household energy intake was from bread and flour, it is now around 11%
  • In 1951, the first supermarket opened – in Streatham, South London
  • In 1952, average household expenditure on food was around 40%, it is now around 11%
  • In 1962, 33% of households owned a fridge
  • In 1975, food prices rose by 26% in one year due to the oil crisis
  • In 1980, pre-packaged sandwiches were introduced
  • In 1989, 41% of households owned a microwave
  • Between 1993 and 1997 the number of coffee outlets grew by 847%
  • In 2008, food prices rose by 9% in one year due to the 'credit crunch'.


Here is a brief summary of the latest findings from the Family Food Survey 2015


  • On average in 2015, households spent 10.7% of their income on food and non-alcoholic drinks (around £42 per person per week). For households with the lowest 20% of income, the percentage was 16%.
  • Since 2007, when prices were at their lowest, there is evidence that households have been trading down, to cheaper products.
  • In real terms, adjusting for the effects of inflation, since 2012 spending on household food and drink fell by 6.3% and eating out expenditure rose by 2.4%.


Trends in Food Purchasing

Let’s take a look at how some food category purchases have changed over the years.

Purchase data only gives a rough estimate of what is consumed as the data does not take account of edible or inedible waste and how the food is distributed within a household. More detailed information on UK population food consumption and nutrient intakes is available from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey

Fruit and veg

  • Household purchases of fresh and processed vegetables (excluding potatoes) have generally been declining since 2005, mainly because of a decline in fresh green veg that has fallen by approximately 25% since 2005. Purchases were on average 158 g per person per day in 2015.
  • Potato purchases have been in long term decline and are 20% lower than 10 years ago.
  • Purchases of fruit (including juice) show a similar pattern to vegetables, being about 17% down from the peak in 2006 (and 1.3% down on 2012), falling to 156 g per person per day in 2015.
  • Across all households, fruit and vegetable purchases equated to 3.9 portions per person per day. In lower income households, it amounted to slightly less (3.1 – 3.3 portions per person per day). It is recommended that we consume 5 portions of fruit and veg per person per day (which is around 400 g).

Milk and fat spreads

  • Household purchases of milk and milk products (excluding cheese) have fallen over the last 10 years, largely driven by reductions in whole milk. But over the period 2012-15, whole milk purchases have increased by 5.1%.
  • Butter purchases have been increasing steadily over the past 10 years, and were 3% higher in 2015 than in 2012. Over the same period, purchases of reduced and low fat spreads have continued to fall and were 18% lower in 2015 than 2012.


  • Purchases of bread are on a long term downward trend. Over the period 2012-15, white bread purchases fell by 12% and brown/wholemeal by 17%.

Meat and fish

  • Meat purchases fell slightly during the period 2012-15 from 196 g to 187 g per person per week. Non-carcase meat and meat products also fell during this period from 793 g to 742 g per person per week.
  • Household purchases of fish and fish products have fallen steadily over the past 10 years, but rose slightly in 2015. Purchases of salmon rose by 27% since 2012.

Soft drinks

  • Household purchases of soft drinks (including low calorie) were 6.3% lower in 2015 compared to 2012, a fall of 15 ml per person per week; sugar-sweetened drinks fell by 16% from 884 ml to 745 ml per person per week. The fall in sugar sweetened drinks was mirrored by a rise in low calorie options of 4.9% from 749 to 786 ml per person per week.

Eating out

  • Regarding eating out purchases, confectionery was down 11%, alcoholic drinks down 24% since 2012. In addition, vegetables went up by 14% and potatoes by 15%. Fresh and processed fruit purchases nearly doubled with an increase of 96% since 2012.  

Dietary trends

  • The data for purchases is used to produce estimates of energy and nutrient intake.
  • Total energy intake from all food and drink was 2.9% down in 2015 compared to 2012, across all households, continuing the long term downward trend reported in this and other surveys [Concerns about under-reporting noted in the report].
  • Intake of non-milk extrinsic sugars continued a downward trend, falling to 12.8% of energy in 2015 compared to 14.8% in 2001-2.
  • Over the same period (2001-2 to 2015), saturated fat intake has also shown a downward trend. Over the period 2001-2 to 2010 it fell from 14.8% of energy to 14.2% but has since risen to 14.4% of energy.
  • Fibre intake (measured as NSP) has risen slightly compared to 2014; 14.5 g compared to 14.2 g per person per day but is still below the peak of 15.6 g in 2005-6.
    Intake of sodium (excluding table salt) continued its downward trend.
  • Mean intakes of vitamins and minerals were close to or exceeded the population-weighted reference nutrient intakes.