If quality of life also means access to and consumption of more fresh food in daily practice, then the statistics for packaged food use is a surprise.
In 2016, the top nation spending most of packaged food is Norway, which purchased around twice the amount per capita in fast food obsessed USA. Western nations figure high in packaged food which are mostly sourced in supermarkets, petrol stations and 24 hour corner grocery chains.
Japan is ranked number 7 in this category, which can be contradictory to its national high age living expectancy, but which can also be explained by a high proportion of its society experiencing a rigorous and demanding urban lifestyle dependent on convenient packaged foods, like from sophisticated vending machines.
Australia at number ten is no surprise. I have often observed the dominance of processed food on the shelves of the major supermarkets of packaged food, many laden with sugar, most with brightly coloured designs and placed at strategic locations in the layout. There has been an effort to expand fresh food options like sushi, fruit and veg. Admirable is the availability of free fruit for kids in supermarkets in New Zealand.
The inequities in income and purchasing power can come into play for buying more packaged foods. Fresh food is on average more expensive and has a shorter shelf life.
With packaged food comes the question of how seriously consumers read the detail on the labels. In recent years, packaged food sizes have shrunk for many products despite retaining the same retail price. There is the interesting aspect of extent of disclosure of the source of the packaged offering. As consumers emphasise more on effects on health from manufactured food, small retailers and big chains do continue to provide more information, but it is what is not disclosed that has risen to be of concern.
The arrival of cheaper per unit but more bulk buying models like Costco in new markets and nations can also add to the spend on packaged foods. Bottled drinks, dried fruit and nuts, cooking essentials, frozen options and lollies are often captivating buys for growing families.
The standard of living measure obviously does not just mean more fresh produce but is more of a holistic measure of choice, convenience and cultural options.