Top 10 Selling Grocery Items (Change Needed!)

Take a look at this information regarding the Top 10 items people are spending money on at food stores.

While you’re reading through the list, make a note of what is missing. Consider what it takes to create each product, e.g., value-added process, ingredients, etc. Think about which food crops are needed to create each product. And, if you can, think about how the money flows from your pocket to which participants in the food value chain.

For the 52 weeks ending June 14, 2009, the Top 10-selling grocery items are (NOTE – ranked by dollar sales, in $billions):

ITEM                                                  SALES ($B)                     % CHANGE

1.)  Carbonated Beverages                                     $12.00                                         1.86

2.)  Milk                                                                          $11.20                                        -8.44

3.)  Fresh Bread & Rolls                                             $9.57                                         4.77

4.)  Beer/Ale/Hard Cider                                          $8.17                                          5.42

5.)  Salty Snacks                                                            $8.09                                         9.75

6.)  Natural Cheese                                                      $7.64                                         7.75

7.)  Frozen Dinners/Entrees                                    $6.13                                          0.18

8.)  Cold Cereal                                                               $6.11                                          2.12

9.)  Wine                                                                            $5.49                                         3.72

10.) Cigarettes                                                                $4.63                                        -2.18


While its great to see Milk on the list (although share is dropping fast), as well as Grains (i.e., bread, cereal), did you also notice that Vegetables (2-1/2 cups recommended per day), Fruits (1-1/2 cups) and Meat & Beans (5 ounces) were not on the list?  Considering how many empty calories are wrapped up in soda and snacks, you can start to see why America has a problem with its waistline.

The other important thing that jumps out is how much of this list is occupied by highly processed “foods”, including sodas, snacks and (many) frozen dinners/entrees. Lots of added sugar, salt and oils originating from heavily subsidized corn and soy crops, much of which is grown using genetically modified seeds, chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Do you see anything on the list that diversified farms are benefiting from?  Dairy farms show up, but if you’ve been following their industry as of late you know most smaller dairies are facing serious financial troubles.

Without getting into the many influences that make this list look the way it does, from food science to marketing to consumer behaviors, I would like to issue a homework assignment to anyone interested in using your food expenditures to increasingly benefit farmers (rather than the industrial food system that dominates today’s market).

  1. Over the next 2-3 months capture information on your own household’s grocery purchases.
  2. Compare the data you capture to the list above.
  3. Develop a game plan to replace processed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables and your preferred protein sources (meat, beans, etc.).
  4. After several months of effort, gauge how you and others in your household feel.

My expectations is that your body, mind and soul will feel nourished in ways that strongly reinforce your decision to shift how you spend your food dollars.

Give it a try. Make a difference.

Every Kitchen Table is a proud supporter of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday series.

15 responses to “Top 10 Selling Grocery Items (Change Needed!)

  1. Wow, people eat a LOT of salty snacks. I’m happy to say my fridge has more vegetables in it than anything else (thanks to a CSA share), but it really is too bad that fruits and vegetables can’t make it into the top 10

  2. Very interesting list. #2 (Milk), #6 (Cheeses), #3 (Breads/Flour) and #8 (Cold Cereal / Hot Cereal) are top on our list. For bought things spices seem like they would be in the top ten although I guess the volume of them isn’t really that great. As we get into late winter and spring our veggie and fruit stocks run out and then they rise up the bought foods list. I did a post about food for a week here. Looking back at it the list is dominated by dairy and grains in the bought category. Most of the year we have our own veggies and fruit and we produce virtually all of our own meat as well as eggs. Olive oil is up there near the top of the for us too although we also use lard a lot.

    I was surprised to see Cigarettes on the list.

  3. Wow, I think we only buy three of these items, regularly milk, cheese and wine . . . 🙂 The rest of our grocery bill isn’t included at all.

    Though sometimes it IS shocking to see what fills people’s carts. Thanks for this very interesting post!


  4. The things from that list that top our family’s grocery are the milk, cheese, and the darn beer! I’m hoping to nip that soon. It’s my dh’s downfall LOL.

    I’m really surprised chicken or meat wasn’t in the 10 ten. You’d think people would buy more of that than salty snacks?

  5. Speaking of “chicken or meat” I have a curious question that I’ve wondered about for a long time. Why are poultry and ‘meat,’ and fish for that matter, listed separately from each other by the USDA and in food groups? They are all meat. Anyone know the historical reason why these got separated?

  6. It always freaks me out to look in other people’s grocery carts (except maybe at the co-op).

  7. Angie why the co-op? it makes me wonder if people actualy know how many calories are in their fizzy drinks

  8. From what I’ve seen at our co-op, people tend to have a healthier selection in their cart.

  9. It’s sad but not surprising. I think it has a lot to do with how so much food that is bad for us is usually cheaper than healthier choices.

  10. The top 10 should tell you why we have our “healthcare crisis” in America. How sad that a country that has all the knowledge about nutrition and food, as well as ACCESS to this nutritious food still fill our plates with crap and have the fattest people in the world.

    God help us if the government starts taking care of our health.

  11. This is very interesting because I go by the rule that you eat the ingredients in dishes. So if you are buying a frozen food look at the ingredients and then buy those ingredients. Chances are you are not capable of buying all the preservatives to keep the food frozen so you know that you are getting a healthy meal and are making it on your own which adds to the enjoyment of the meal.

  12. Pingback: Eat the ingredients NOT the processed food | Honu Way To Live

  13. Your article is interesting, but your key items missing from the list could easily be attributed to the myriad of sources where they can be purchased. Case in point: My international neighbors don’t buy produce at the big chains. They go to smaller stores opened by others from their respective counties. Likewise, I would say at least half of my friends grow their own fruits and vegetables, and/or their family does. I have many friends who shop exclusively at farmer’s markets for fresh, local produce and just a few who are participating in crop-share programs. Therefore, I don’t think it is it fair to say these results are indicative of how much vegetables we do or do not need. Also, the way it’s worded in your chart it seems as though you’re looking at “most items sold” in $$$ rather than the NUMBER of items sold. One bag of carrots costs $1.79 at the grocery store. One 12-pack of pop costs $3-$5 depending on sales. One pack of cigarettes costs $6.50. Which dollar amount do you think would add up faster? It would take 3 pages of carrots to match one pack of cigarettes. Then you ad the constant sale prices in the produce section…well, other than whole watermelon and whole pineapple you’d be sore pressed to find some over $2.50/lb.

  14. Oh wow that is sad. So sad. The number one thing I buy… Spaghetti Squash! ha ha. That’s probably NO WHERE NEAR the top ten selling grocery items!

  15. Pingback: Top 10 Selling Grocery Items | Itsumo Fresh Ahi

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