There is more fruit, vegetables, yogurt and beef in the nation’s shopping baskets this year, but less white bread and whole milk, according to a DEFRA survey.

Family Food Expenditure compares 6800 households’ expenditure on groceries in 2004/05 with a year earlier and reveals trends in eating habits.

It shows how health concerns continue to shape the nation’s appetite as people spent a record £154bn on food and drink.

Among the headline figures was the fact that people’s average consumption of dairy products continued to fall, despite strong growth in semi-skimmed milk, fromage frais and yogurt.

Whole milk showed a big 18% drop.

But Ken Boyns, chief economist at the Milk Development Council, said that overall sales of dairy produce in value terms were growing as the population expanded.

“The TNS data we use comes from scanning in barcodes, and it shows slow growth for milk and cheese.”

There was good news for livestock farmers, because red meat volumes were up by about 2%, with beef 3.5% higher.

Only pigmeat suffered at the hands of shoppers, with fresh meat down fractionally and a large 8.5% drop in the quantity of cooked bacon and ham sold.

The potato continued its decline in popularity, with both fresh and processed volumes down 5% year-on-year.

Overall, though, vegetable consumption rose modestly as carrots, leeks, onions and salad vegetables all gained ground.

Sales of brown and wholemeal breads, oat products, buns and teacakes also grew, the survey found.

However, Kevin Pearce, head of food chain at the NFU, said shoppers were not necessarily spending more money on food, but just buying more of it.

“Food prices are going up but nowhere near as much as the retail price index.”

For the first time, sales of food eaten out of the home have caught up with retail grocery sales, after 25% growth on the year.

Households spent £77bn on retail food and £75bn on eating out.

For the full report, click to http://statistics.defra.gov.uk

sam.fortescue@rbi.co.uk