2 Jul 2013

NZ's love of takeaways keeps growing

10:27 pm on 2 July 2013

New Zealanders spent almost $1.5 billion on takeaways last year, up 25% in four years.

One response is to try to crack down, with attempts now in earthquake-hit Christchurch to restrict the number of takeaway shops allowed in rebuilt areas.

The rise and rise of spending on takeaways is outlined in a new report on the hospitality industry by the Restaurant Association and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

The corresponding growth in the number of fast food options is worrying health experts. Dr Robyn Toothmath, a spokesperson for Fight the Obesity Epidemic, says it wouldn't be a problem if the food being bought was healthy.

"But given our statistics showing how unhealthily New Zealanders eat - that we eat far too few in the way of fruit and vegetables, that we eat far too much in the way of fat and salt - seeing that we're heading determinedly in the wrong direction with these statistics is very alarming."

The report tracks spending in restaurants, pubs, clubs and through caterers - but records the biggest jump in takeaways, where sales were up 9% from a year ago.

The Ministry of Health classifies one in 12 children and a quarter of all adult New Zealanders as obese. Heart Foundation dietician Delvina Gorton says the statistics show that people are eating out much more than they should.

"The problem with it is that there's often a lot hidden away in the food that you're buying. So there's often a pile of calories, salt, saturated fat and sugar, and things that aren't good for us if we're eating too much of them."

The Canterbury District Health Board wants restrictions on how many takeaway shops are allowed in parts of Christchurch being rebuilt, especially near schools. Alice Robertson is looking into the benefits of that and says the amount of money spent on takeaways is frightening.

"I guess that demonstrates that looking at monitoring, regulating and controlling the density of fast food outlets really could really have quite an impact and be a useful tool in addressing obesity, as the spending rates are so high when it comes to takeaway food."

AUT Professor Lindsay Neill helped write the industry report and says more spending in the hospitality sector should be taken as a good sign.

"I think the report reflects the wider economy in that hospitality and just about all of its outlets are picking up in business. Hospitality's one of the first businesses to suffer when the economy turns down and I think one of the first ones to pick up when things look a bit brighter."

Professor Neill says other sectors in the industry are continuing to grow, with restaurants, cafes, catering services and bars all seeing an increase of at least 5%.

Although he says there's always healthy takeaway options available, the Heart Foundation says nothing beats a home-cooked meal.