UK facts and figures

Production and consumption
Food prices
Additional sources

Facts and figures with a more global perspective can be found in The Issue section.

Click on the headings below to expand/minimise content.

Production and consumption

£182Bn: amount of UK food and drink expenditure in 2010; this figure barely rose in 2009 as high prices deterred consumers (ref 1).

In 2010, the UK produced 73% of ‘indigenous-type foods’, and is about 60% self-sufficient when exports and local consumption are set against production (ref 2, ref 3).

Food manufacturing is the UK’s single largest manufacturing sector. The food and drink supply chain is a major part of the UK economy, accounting for 7% of GDP, employing 3.7M people, and generating £80Bn per year (ref 3).

Jobs: the agri-food sector made up 13% of UK national employment in the first quarter of 2011 (ref 1).

One-third: increase in the food sector (excluding agriculture) from 2000-2009 in Britain; the whole UK economy increased by 47% during the same period. The food sector has less scope for growth due to limited consumer intake capacity and therefore relies on quality improvements (ref 1).

The average UK household now devotes about 9% of its expenditure on food, down from 16% in 1984 – and much more before that (ref 3).

£164M: amount invested by Defra and the food industry in agricultural research and development each year (ref 4).

£15Bn: estimated overall costs of animal diseases to the UK over the past 15 years through production losses and implementation of control strategies (ref 5).

Jobs vs efficiency: employment in food and drink manufacturing has fallen by 21% since 2001, thus driving productivity growth of around 27% over the same period (ref 1).

UK food trade gap: £18.5Bn, based on imports of £32.5 billion and exports of £14 billion. Since 1995 the trade gap has doubled (ref 1).

Make mine a double: drinks are the UK’s largest export category with a total export value of £4.9Bn in 2009 (ref 1).

Back to top

Food prices

From 1998-2009 food prices rose by 33%, while the mean income of low income households rose by 22% (before housing costs) over the same period (ref 1).

The volume of demand fell 1.7% in 2008 and 3.9% in 2009 but then increased by 1.4% in 2010 as consumers accept permanently higher food prices (ref 1).

Internet food shopping dropped from 2.7% to 2.5% of sales in 2009 – against the recent increasing trend – perhaps a reaction to higher food prices (ref 1).

Food prices followed a steady decline between 1975 and 2007; a real terms fall of 32% (ref 1).

26%: the four-year rise in UK food prices between June 2007-11; more than 12% in real terms (ref 1).

Food and non-alcoholic drink prices have risen by considerably more in the UK since June 2007 than in the rest of the EU (ref 1).

Expensive health: fruit and vegetables were more expensive in the UK – 23% above the EU average in 2010 and 4.5% above those in France (ref 1).

Price: is the most important factor for 30% of UK shoppers when selecting produce (ref 1).

Back to top


In 2009 UK consumers spent an average of £480 per household on food each year that was then throw away, or 4.1M tonnes of food nationally (ref 3, ref 6, ref 7).

Reviewing ‘Best Before’ labelling could save around 370,000 tonnes per year (ref 4).

Halved: levels of food and drink waste by commercial and industrial businesses between 2003 and 2009 (ref 1).

Waste rates: 32% of bread (not including the crusts); 17% of overall food purchases, 7.1% of soft drinks and 6.3% of alcoholic drinks are never consumed (ref 1).

Eliminating household food waste would deliver greenhouse gas benefits equivalent to taking one in five cars off the road – a reduction of 18M tonnes of CO2 (ref 3).

Sweet tooth: on a calorie basis, 20% of carbohydrates are wasted, but only 9.3% of sugars found in confectionery, soft drinks, fruit juices and biscuits (ref 1).

The amount of food waste sent to landfill is about 8%. Half of food waste generated by businesses in the food and drink sector is recycled, composted or reused (ref 1).

Back to top


Fruit and vegetable consumption is falling. Both the Health Survey for England and the Defra Family Food Survey report drops in each year since 2006 (ref 8).

What we should eat: bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods (33%); fruit and vegetables (33%); milk and dairy foods (15%); meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein (12%); foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar (8%) (ref 1).

What we do eat: bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods (need 70% more); fruit and vegetables (need 30% more); milk and dairy foods (need 30% less); meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein (about right); foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar – three times too much (ref 1).

61% of people in 2009 in England aged 16 or over and 30% of children were overweight or obese (ref 1).

Fat chance: Obesity in both men and women was slightly lower in 2009 than in 2008, suggesting the increasing trend may be thinning out (ref 1).

Nearly a quarter of all adults and 10% of children are classed as obese in the UK. Diet related to ill health costs the NHS £8Bn per year and obesity alone is estimated to cost the wider economy £15.8Bn.Foresight, the UK Government’s future-oriented stakeholder group, suggests the figure could be £50Bn by 2050 (ref 3, ref 9).

In 2009 only 25% of men and 28% of women consumed the recommended 5-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables. The levels have been falling since 2006, but were rising from 2001 to 2006. (ref 1).

That’s not fine dining: eating out contains more fat but less carbohydrates than the household diet and contributed 10.3% of energy intake in 2009 – excluding energy from alcohol (ref 1).

That is fine dining: mono-unsaturated fatty acids (olive oils, rapeseed oil, fish oils, nuts) are higher in the eating out diet; saturated fatty acids (milk and dairy, meat, biscuits, cakes and pastries) are lower in the eating out diet (ref 1).

A national survey in 2007 revealed that 28% of people – mostly elderly – admitted to hospital and care homes in the UK were malnourished (ref 3).

Back to top


115M tonnes of CO2e were emitted by UK domestic food chain activity in 2009; of this farming and fishing was the largest (53mt CO2e) contributor (ref 1).

10%: the drop in UK greenhouse-gas emissions in 2009 (from 2008); food and drink manufacturing showed a 12% drop over the same period (ref 1).

However, emissions due to imported food cannot be ignored because the UK does not produce all of its food. A rough estimate is 59mt CO2e per year of food production-related emissions overseas (ref 1).

And that may account for energy consumption in the UK food chain falling by 3.2% between 2008 and 2009, excluding overseas trade (ref 1).

18% of UK greenhouse-gas emissions are related to food production and consumption. Half of this comes from farms, mostly methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from fertiliser (ref 3).

In the UK, 60% of nitrates, 25% of phosphorus and 70% of sediments polluting water bodies come from farms (ref 4).

Back to top


Around 765,000 cases of food poisoning occur in the UK every year (ref 2).

In 2009 there were an estimated 24,800 cases of Salmonella in the UK – 45% fewer than in 2003 (ref 1).

Deadly: Listeria bacteria are a less common cause of food poisoning but leads to more deaths than salmonella and E. coli combined in the UK (ref 1).

There were an estimated 1,150 cases of E. coli in the UK in 2009 and a staggering 371,300 cases of Campylobacter (ref 1).

88% of premises inspected in 2009-10 for food hygiene were rated as broadly compliant or better, but 165,828 food hygiene enforcement actions were carried out in the same period (ref 1).

Over 78,000 businesses are part of the Red Tractor Assurance chain, which covers UK farmers and food supply businesses and sets effective, internationally recognised production, safety, animal welfare and environmental protection standards to various product sectors (ref 1).

Year-on-year increases have seen Red Tractor food sales rise from £4.0Bn billion in 2003 to £11Bn in 2010-11 when total consumer expenditure on food and drink was £182 billion in 2010 (ref 1).

Back to top


  1. Defra Food Statistics Pocket Book 2011
  2. Future directions in research relating to food security
  3. Food Matters: Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century (external link)
  4. Defra – The Future of our Farming
  5. Economic and Social Impact of Science at the Institute for Animal Health
  6. WRAP – Down the drain
  7. WRAP – Household food and drink waste in the UK (external link)
  8. Health Survey for England
  9. Food matters: one year on