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Democratisation or individualisation? On the distribution of food consumption

Raluca Alexandra Necula (Faculty of Management, Economic Engineering in Agriculture and Rural Development, Universitatea De Ştiinţe Agronomice Şi Medicină Veterinară Din Bucureşti , Bucharest, Romania)
Stefan Mann (Department of Socioeconomics, Agroscope, Ettenhausen, Switzerland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 8 May 2018




While economists are increasingly acknowledging the importance of distributional issues, the distribution of the consumption of food items has largely been neglected. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that important insights can be obtained by analysing the distribution of consumption of food products within society.


This study was conducted by analysing food consumption in two very different countries: Romania, a middle-income country and Switzerland, one of the most prosperous countries in the world. In order to test the formulated hypotheses, consumption per capita was calculated, as a base for the calculation of the Gini coefficient of consumption for each product. A mixed effect model was applied for total food and for meat, computing the predictors for the variable “consumption distribution”.


Using the Gini coefficients of food and drink item consumption by Romanian and Swiss households, the authors tested the hypothesis that in prosperous middle-income countries the homogeneity of food consumption is growing over time as a sign of consumption democratisation, whereas in high-income countries a growing degree of individualisation is leading to decreasing homogeneity. For meat, the bifurcation of consumption patterns between vegetarians and hedonists leads to a growing Gini coefficient over time for both countries. The analysis controls for factors such as the products’ importance in the diet and their price.


The paper approaches a new subject and raises a new research question that may be relevant for structural issues of contemporary society. Both the comparative analysis of food distribution in two different societies and their dynamics is a novelty.



Necula, R.A. and Mann, S. (2018), "Democratisation or individualisation? On the distribution of food consumption", British Food Journal, Vol. 120 No. 5, pp. 942-951.



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