1 in 3 locals buy groceries abroad

Summary

More and more locals are heading across the border for staples like cereal, fruits and beverages

Drain on the economy

New figures from the market research company GfK show that locals regularly skip across the border to save money on food shopping. According to GfK, one in three locals regularly travel abroad to shop at foreign supermarkets like Auchan, Jumbo and Lidl.

In 2019, locals together bought €616 million in food products abroad, a 4.6% increase compared to the year before. Locals on average bought groceries abroad nine times per year, with France being the most popular destination. Wine, soft drinks and water especially are markedly cheaper in France than in Belgium.

The main driver behind the shopping journeys abroad is the high cost of food products in local supermarkets. According to a 2017 survey, groceries are on average 10% more expensive in Belgium than in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

But Belgian food industry federation Fevia says the high cost price of food isn’t the fault of local supermarkets. High food prices are instead the combined result of a national tax on soft drinks, a packaging levy as well as increased excise duties on alcoholic beverages, they say.

According to Fevia, the turnover of local supermarkets fell by five percentage points due to all the food shopping abroad, a decrease that they say should be of concern to everyone.

“Grocery shopping abroad is not a side show – it’s a growing problem. Increasing the prices of our products hurts companies but also weakens the Belgian economy,” Fevia chair Jan Vander Stichele said in a statement posted to the industry group’s website. “It’s why we are urging future governments to think long-term. Scrap the many taxes and invest in innovation.”

According to Fevia, half of Belgians live less than 50 kilometres from a country border with France, Luxemburg, the Netherlands or Germany.

Photo: Belga/ Jonas Roosens