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Research reveals key changes in Kiwis’ food shopping and consumption behaviours

Research results at a glance:

  • New Zealanders are now spending significantly more on food than in 2019.
  • Use of food delivery services like Uber Eats, HelloFresh and My Food Bag has risen significantly.
  • Awareness of and willingness to try meat alternatives has increased over the last two years.
  • Preference is split between cheaper imperfect vegetables and full price – though more Kiwis have bought imperfect veggies in 2021.

Research by Rabobank and KiwiHarvest has uncovered significant changes in New Zealanders’ food purchasing and consumption behaviours.

The research — completed earlier this year — found New Zealanders are spending significantly more on food than in 2019 while they’re also much more likely to be using food delivery services such as Uber Eats, HelloFresh and My Food Bag. It also revealed an increased proportion of Kiwis are open to adding meat alternatives to their diet and are purchasing imperfect fruit and vegetables.

Blake Holgate, RaboResearch Protein and Sustainability Analyst

Blake Holgate, RaboResearch Protein and Sustainability Analyst

Rabobank Head of Sustainable Business Development Blake Holgate said the research – part of a wider study undertaken by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank and food rescue charity KiwiHarvest – found 35 per cent of New Zealanders live in households which are spending more than $200 per week on food (up from with 26 per cent in 2019) with 12 per cent saying their household is spending over $300 per week (seven per cent previously).

“We’ve also seen changes at the lower end of the scale, with only 14 per cent of New Zealanders reporting their household spends less than $100 a week on food, well back on the 23 per cent citing this two years ago” he said.

“Increases in food prices are a key factor in this lift, while the significant rise in the use of food delivery services is a further potential contributor to this higher spend.”

The survey found a marked increase in the use of almost all food delivery services since 2019, with HelloFresh recording particularly strong growth.

“The variety and convenience offered by these services has seen their usage surge over the last five years — both here in New Zealand and in many other countries around the globe — and we anticipate this trend will continue in the years ahead.” Mr Holgate said.

“Covid-19 is only likely to have further fuelled this growth, given the associated restrictions which have, at times, limited access to supermarkets and other food outlets over the last 15 months.”

We're spending more on food

Open to meat alternatives

The research found the percentage of Kiwis who identified themselves as vegetarian had remained unchanged from 2019 at seven per cent, while two per cent identified as vegan
(three per cent previously).

When it came to meat consumption, 30 per cent of New Zealanders said they were trying to consume less (compared with 33 per cent previously), while five per cent were planning to increase their intake (unchanged from 2019).

Health reasons were cited by nearly three quarters of respondents wanting to reduce meat intake, while impact on the environment, the cost, and animal welfare concerns were the next most frequently-cited reasons.

“With these numbers all relatively unchanged from two years ago, it’s clear that meat remains a fundamental component of most Kiwis diets,” Mr Holgate said. “However, the survey also highlighted many Kiwis are willing to give meat substitutes a try.”

“Since 2019, there’s been a jump in New Zealanders’ awareness of a range of meat alternative categories including burgers and sausages made from vegetables, food produced from insect-based ingredients, meat produced from algae and meat-like products grown in a laboratory. And we’ve also seen Kiwis’ openness to try these alternatives jump by a significant margin across the majority of these categories.”

Meat alternatives


Imperfect fruit and vegetable purchases on the rise

The research found preferences remained split between cheaper imperfect fruit and vegetables and more expensive regular produce. A total of 39 per cent of survey respondents indicated they’d opt for regular-shaped fruit or vegetables at $4.00 per kg, while 43 per cent would choose misshapen fruit or vegetables at the lower cost of $1.30 per kg.

The survey also found 83 per cent of New Zealanders had previously purchased imperfect looking fruit or vegetables (up from 80 per cent previously) and that 45 per cent said imperfect fruit or vegetables were regularly stocked at their local supermarket or farmers market (40 percent last survey).

KiwiHarvest CEO Gavin Findlay said it was pleasing to see these percentages had increased over the last two years given negative attitudes towards imperfect fruit and vegetables were one of the key factors contributing to the estimated $2.4 billion* of food that goes to waste in New Zealand every year.

“It’s really positive to see New Zealanders attitudes towards imperfect fruit and vegetables improving and more Kiwis reporting that these items are stocked by their local retailer,” he said.

“However, the data we get from food retailers continues to show sales of imperfect fruit and vegetables make up only a small percentage of total sales volumes — somewhere between two and five per cent depending on the retailer — and it’s clear that more needs to be done to tackle this issue.”

“As a result, improving attitudes towards imperfect fruit and vegetables is a major focus of the work we do educating New Zealanders on food waste and what they can do to minimise it.”

Mr Findlay said imperfect fruit and vegetables made up a considerable portion of the food re-distributed by KiwiHarvest and that demand for the organisation’s services continued to grow.

“A range of factors over the last 18 months have increased the number of Kiwi families facing financial hardship, and, in the year to March 31 2021, KiwiHarvest redistributed 2114 tonnes of food to communities in need — an increase of 67 per cent from the previous year,” he said.

Imperfect looking Fruit and Veg

The Rabobank/KiwiHarvest Food Waste survey was administered by independent research agency KANTAR and involved interviews with 1509 New Zealanders between April 6 and April 19, 2021.

Rabobank partnered with food rescue charity KiwiHarvest early last year as part of the bank’s wider commitment to work alongside its rural customers to support sustainable food production and its global vison around global food security. The research on food shopping and consumption behaviours formed part of a wider piece of research which also examined New Zealanders attitudes and behaviours to food waste. The data collected in the 2021 research has been compared to data collected as part of similar research commissioned by Rabobank in early 2019.

*Rabobank/ KiwiHarvest Food Waste research 2021


Rabobank New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of about 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of close to 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand is one of the country's leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the New Zealand food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 32 branches throughout New Zealand.

Media contacts:

David Johnston
Marketing & Media Relations Manager
Rabobank New Zealand
Phone: 04 819 2711 or 027 477 8153

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations 
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: +612 8115 2744 or +61 2 439 603 525