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BIS Shrapnel Share Views on Australian Food Service Market

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According to industry analysts and economic forecasters, BIS Shrapnel Australian consumers are still eating out even in times of economic downturn. Consumers are trading down their eating out choices but have not stopped going out to eat altogether.

BIS Shrapnel’s Foodservice in Australia 2008 report found that many two and three star restaurants and clubs have reported a strong upturn in custom, quoting a rise in dining guest numbers.

According to Sissel Rosengren, BIS Shrapnel Food and Beverages Unit Manager, Australians have made eating out a way of life, which has never been more evident than now, when the economy is slowing. In times of downturn, consumers spend less when eating out and choose fast food options or cheaper restaurants, rather than not going out at all.

BIS Shrapnel forecast an optimistic outlook for the foodservice market in the short term, while the country comes to grips with the changing economic conditions. BIS Shrapnel are predicting an increased growth in constant prices over the next five years and have noted that their Foodservice Confidence Index remains quite high.

Despite this high index, there are still pockets of the market that are feeling the pinch. For example, foodservice operators in Northern Queensland, which are usually busy in the peak tourist season, report disappointing sales.

The peak tropical tourism season has not eventuated this year. There has been a sharp decline in international and domestic tourists to the Northern Queensland region and local customers are spending less.

Foodservice operators around the country are reporting high food costs and a lack of skilled staff as their main concerns.

Foodservice in Australia 2008 found that the cost of many foodstuffs has risen. Basic and low-cost food ingredients including flour and many dairy products are now expensive and while operators can move to cheaper cuts of meat, there is no substitute for flour and basic cheeses.

According to BIS Shrapnel, the past 12 months have seen a return to Mediterranean cuisines, ingredients and flavours. Among the Mediterranean cuisines, Spanish food is expected to become more readily available in the Australian market.

There is also a considerable focus on Spain and its cuisine by Australian food writers and communicators, which has a substantial influence on cuisine trends. An increasing availability of Spanish foodstuffs and wine in Australia is also influencing this trend.

BIS Shrapnel note that the trend in Asian food has not decreased but remains steady, albeit having lost some of its influence on preferred eating options.

Foodservice in Australia 2008 found that Australians spend on average 42 percent of their food and non-alcoholic beverage budget on eating out. The report also found that consumers in New South Wales, the Northern Territory and ACT eat out more often than those in other states.

There is a higher propensity to eat out in capital cities as opposed to other urban and regional areas. This is because capital cities have the widest range of different eating options and cuisines are available close by.

The group of retirees coming through will be the most affluent in Australia’s history due to compulsory superannuation. In the past, retirees were synonymous with having low disposable incomes but this is changing, despite the current financial crisis.

BIS Shrapnel note that baby boomers also have a significant impact on the market. Baby boomers have a strong level of knowledge about food, high expectations on foodservice providers and long established eating out habits. This means as they age, they are not likely to change their habits when in an aged care facility or hospital.

Australia’s multi-cultural society creates an interesting and vibrant foodservice market with numerous restaurants offering a range of cuisines – often prepared by first generation immigrants cooking traditional recipes and using traditional methods.

The Australian foodservice market grew out of British food traditions but has now moved towards multi-ethnic food and Australian chefs are leading the way in fusion cooking.

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