Packaged food retail volume is an indicator that can be used to understand trends in shifting dietary patterns and changing dietary quality. Low- and middle-income countries have rapidly been undergoing a nutrition transition characterized by increased consumption of processed foods coupled with decreased consumption of fresh foods (Popkin et al., 2013). This comes with serious health implications, as packaged and processed foods tend to be less nutrient dense, more energy-dense, and linked with poorer diet quality (Imamura et al., 2015), increased obesity (Asfaw, 2009) and increased diet-related illness (Micha et al., 2012). The packaged food retail volume is a national-level indicator that quantifies the volume of packaged foods sold at markets, reported in kilograms per capita. When used in conjunction with fresh food retail volume, this indicator can provide a picture of the ongoing dietary transition (Global Nutrition Report, 2015).
Method of Construction
Currently, data for this indicator are collected by and available for purchase from Euromonitor (Euromonitor International, 2016). Government ministries may also collect data related to market-level retail sales and/or volume. If calculating this indicator from primary data, it is necessary to clearly define what is meant by packaged foods. For further guidance on this, please refer to the NOVA Food Classification, for proposed groupings of foods into unprocessed/minimally processed, processed, and ultra-processed categories (Monteiro et al. 2010).
This indicator, in combination with retail volume of fresh foods, has been recommended by the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) to assess national food consumption diversity (Global Nutrition Report, 2015). Food consumption diversity is one of the four food system outcomes identified by the GNR, which were all selected as metrics in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being), and 12 (responsible consumption and production) (Sustainable Development Goals, 2015). When used in conjunction with other market-level data on production and/or consumption, it can also be used to capture the extent to which foods are being processed versus sold fresh within national markets.
Strengths and Weaknesses
One strength of this indicator is that it allows for an analysis of dietary patterns at the population level and is comparable across many countries, as Euromonitor currently collects data on fresh food retail volume in 54 countries (Euromonitor International, 2016). Another advantage is that it encompasses a broad number of items that have health and nutritional implications.
However, the breadth that comes from combining foods of all levels of processing also means that this indicator does not provide specific insight into ultra-processed foods, which are foods that have undergone industrial processes that extend shelf life and which have been shown to be have particularly detrimental health and nutritional implications (Ludwig 2011). Instead, percent of energy comprised of ultra-processed foods would be more a more effective indicator for capturing consumption of this particularly harmful food group. Another weakness is that as a national-level indicator, packaged food retail volume does not capture any measurement of distribution among regional, socioeconomic, or age/sex groups. An indicator like individual intake of food groups, such as processed meats, would be more appropriate for examining packaged food consumption on a finer scale or potentially across sub-populations or groups.
Euromonitor collects and compiles data on packaged food retail volume in 54 countries, and access must be purchased (Euromonitor International, 2016).
There are no links to validation studies to show for this indicator.