Shereen Tuff, senior research analyst at Euromonitor International, indicated that South Africa’s obesity levels are high, and there’s little evidence that that could change.
“South Africa has high obesity levels, sitting at 20.8 per cent of the population over the age of 15 being obese in 2012, according to our latest figures. Whilst there are growing health and wellness concerns, these are largely the concerns of the upper-income groups, with the bulk of the population being more concerned with affordability and convenience rather than health,” Tuff told CNBCafrica.com.
“Despite real and growing concerns about their health, there is little evidence that consumers are going to avoid fast food in order to eat more healthily, which will boost sales by another 16 per cent in constant value terms by 2017.”
CONSUMER INCOME AND ITS CONNECTION TO FAST FOOD SPENDING
South Africans have a strong culture of eating out and spent roughly 62.3 billion rand alone on eating out in 2012. Tuff explained that as a consumer’s disposable income increases, so will the amount they spend on fast food.
“Looking at average spent per capita on fast food annually, South Africans spent just under 60 US dollars last year. Whilst this is ahead of countries such as Mexico, Turkey and most other sub-Saharan African countries, it is well behind the US where the average person spent 650 US dollars in fast food restaurants in 2012 alone,” she said.
“However, when looking at the calculated annual growth of household expenditure on fast food across the period 2007 until 2012, South Africa has shown a 5.4 per cent growth whilst the UK is only showing 1.1 per cent growth. This shows that there is still much room for growth of fast food over the forecast period.”
FAST FOOD CONSUMPTION AND DIFFERENT CONSUMER GROUPS
Tuff added that while different consumer groups have different eating out habits, eating out remains a privilege for those South Africans that have more limited incomes.
“Whilst those with more disposable income choose to eat out more frequently, and use the opportunity to either have a casual family meal, or a celebratory, more leisurely meal out, there are a number of middle-income consumers who may purchase ‘food-on-the-go’ daily. This trend is increasing with the presence of smaller meal items which carry a lower unit price and thus are more affordable to a wider number of consumers,” she stated.
“The upper-income consumers, who tend to be more health conscious, may be increasingly drawn to products that offer perceptions of quality, environmental responsibility and health, and this way, chains such as Kauai are likely to perform well.”
FAST FOOD OUTLETS AND CONVENIENCE
It’s also well-documented that fast food offers a convenience factor, so it’s usually the larger cities in South Africa which tend to be the biggest consumers of it.
“Fast food outlets are conveniently located and appeal to the on-the-go lifestyles of these cities. They are more visible to a bigger number of consumers than outlets in smaller towns and rural areas. However, the number of potential sites is limited, and at some point these cities will reach saturation, and operators will turn to smaller towns and rural areas as opportunities for expansion,” Tuff explained.
“The growth of shopping malls also contributes to the growth of fast food brands as malls tend to carry food courts which contain fast food outlets.”
THE MODIFICATION OF FAST FOOD MENUS
Post 2008, fast food outlets have had to work a little harder to attract cash-strapped South African consumers. Tuff indicated that altering and improving their menus is just one of the ways that they did this.
“Whilst players had to increase their unit prices in order to cover their costs, they also had to work to continually update their menus and formats in order to encourage consumer spend on what is considered a ‘luxury’ rather than a necessity,” she said.
“In order to stimulate sales, there has been a strong rise in popularity of cheaper treats such as smaller menu items that retail at a lower price point and therefore offer consumers the opportunity to treat themselves without being significantly out of pocket. However, growth of foodservice outlet sales is strongly linked to economic factors and corresponding disposable income.”