1Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health (Nupens), University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil, São Paulo, Brazil, 2Surveillance and Monitoring in Nutrition and Health Laboratory, Nutrition Department, Federal Uni-versity of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 3Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (Idec), São Paulo, Brazil.
Introduction: A study based on food price data of the foods available in the Brazilian market indicated that unhealthy diets based on ultra-processed foods could become cheaper than those based on minimally processed foods in 2026. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the global economy and the food supply chain was directly affected. Objective: The present study aims to analyze the trends in food price in Brazil in the recent past, with an emphasis on the period of the COVID-19 pandemic (from March 2020 to March 2022) and to project price scenarios until 2025. Methods: For the analyses of trends in food price data from the Household Budget Survey and from the National System of Consumer Price Indexes were used to create a novel data set containing monthly prices (R$/kg) for the foods and beverages most consumed in the country between January 2018 and March 2022. The 95 foods or beverages items included in the present study were divided according to the NOVA food classification system into four groups: Unprocessed or minimally processed foods, processed culinary ingredients, processed foods, and ultra-processed foods. The mean price of each group and subgroup was estimated for each year of study and for the entire period. The monthly price of each group was then plotted to analyze changes in prices for the period from January 2018 to March 2022. Fractional polynomial models were used to synthesize prices changes up to 2025. Results: Results of the present study showed that in Brazil unprocessed or minimally processed foods and processed culinary ingredients were less expensive than processed and ultra-processed foods. However, the analyses suggested the reversal of this price pattern. This change in the price trends initially predicted for Brazil seems to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy. Conclusion: The increase in the price of healthy foods exacerbates the food and nutrition insecurity in Brazil. Additionally, this trend encourages even further the replacement of traditional meals for the consumption of unhealthy foods, increasing a health risk to the population.
Keywords: food price; price trends; COVID-19; ultra-processed food.