Detailed mapping of the food industry in the European single market

Food industries, including packaged food and non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers, supermarkets, and quick service restaurants, play an important role in shaping food environments. An important source of this influence is the noteworthy market power held by a limited number of food companies. Nonetheless, market structure analysis, as part of a broader market power research agenda, has not yet received much attention from the public health community.

Therefore, a study recently published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, under the STOP childhood obesity project, set out to analyse similarities and differences in market structure across European single market member states within the above-mentioned food industries. Euromonitor sales data (2017/18) were analysed to identify companies with the largest market share at the national level per industry. The market structure was in turn assessed using the following metrics: the number of global brand owners with ≥1% market share per country, the number of companies unique for one European single market member state, the most sold packaged food and non-alcoholic beverage categories, the number of quick-service restaurants and supermarkets per 1000 inhabitants and market concentration by using of the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index and the four-firm concentration ratios.

Main findings included:

  • Most sold packaged food and non-alcoholic beverage categories were similar across the European single market, as well as the companies selling them. Levels of market concentration were however higher within the non-alcoholic beverage industry and respective product markets.
  • The same biggest quick-service restaurants were detected throughout Europe, but meanwhile, this food industry showed the highest diversity of companies at the national level and unique companies for one European single market member state.
  • A diversity of supermarkets was observed across Europe, but there was a significant concentration at the country level with most of the market share being in hands of the four national supermarkets with the largest market share.

Apart from their role as a physical shop, in about 50% of the European single market member states, supermarkets were among the leading national companies selling packaged foods through own-brand products placed on the market.

This study formed an important basis to understand key aspects of the market structure of the European food industry, observing clear differences between food industries and European single market member states. Due to these structural differences between food industries, a differentiation between European and national level regulations by industry was suggested to potentially facilitate the implementation of nutrition policies.

Read the full article here.