The ‘Big Mac Index’ was invented by British weekly newspaper The Economist in 1986 as a simple way of showing currency exchange rates between countries.
Turns out we in Australia have our own measure for how the market is going: the meat pie.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its national accounts for the year and it’s full of many important things like gross domestic product (GDP) and and net national disposable income. But most interestingly, there’s also a segment in the ‘HFCE Food Estimates, current price and chain volume measures’ spreadsheet devoted to meat pie spending.
It’s sad reading.
The data shows sales of the footy favourite and all-round Aussie delicacy have hit a five-year low this year.
Sales in supermarkets and bakeries across Australia peaked during the COVID pandemic in June 2020 at $149 million, but have been steadily declining ever since. The figure was 40 per cent lower in March 2023, at $105 million.
The seasons have a part to play, because sales normally drop off in the warmer months and pick up again during winter, but this hardly happened in 2022. Figures remained low and, in fact, plummeted from December last year.
It’s worth pointing out the situation has been worse in the past.
The ABS data goes back as far as September 2015, when sales sat at $99 million. It reveals meat pies barely broke the $100 million mark until June 2018 when it reached $110 million. This year’s figures don’t look so bad in that context.
The sales data also doesn’t include takeaway shops, like Elaine’s Gourmet Pies in Fyshwick.
This small shop on Wollongong Street was named in Wotif’s ‘2022 Uniquely Aussie Awards’ for crafting the ACT’s ‘Best Pie’. Melissa McEwan and her husband Robert took on the dissolving franchise almost 30 years ago, and report they’re still going strong.
“The tradies still want their meat pie,” Melissa says.
But that’s not to say pressure from the rising cost of living isn’t rearing its head here.
“People are being more conscious about what they’re spending,” Melissa says.
“I’ve noticed customers buying the smaller pies instead of the gourmet options to save a dollar or two. Our Coke and soft drink sales are down too because more people are carrying water, so they don’t have to pay for drinks out.”
Winter is usually Elaine’s Gourmet Pies’ busiest time “because people generally eat more during winter”, but they are coming off the back of one of their best summers ever despite the national data saying they shouldn’t have.
“Probably because it wasn’t overly hot – that’s what I’m thinking anyway,” Melissa says.
Crisis averted then. Time for lunch.