We’re not economists. We’re not grocery store executives. We don’t transport food. And we definitely don’t grow it and sell it. Our role in the food production machine: consumers. We’re at the end of the line.
We shop, we cook, and we eat. Which I assume makes us a lot like everyone else. We’re not really sure why the cost of produce goes up or down. We have little insight into why raw ingredients like corn, soy and wheat are more expensive than ever. And with the cost of fuel dropping to levels that make us sigh with relief, we wonder, why haven’t food costs come down?
There are a number of factors that determine why particular food items cost what they do, some of which we know of, others we’re still learning about. But there is one thing we know for sure: we need healthy, affordable food.
An article was published today in the Chicago Tribune explaining why it will be a while until consumers feel some relief at the supermarket, even though commodity prices have fallen dramatically since summer. Essentially, it will take months for those cuts in cost to work their way through the intestines of the American food machine. While companies have already enjoyed the benefits of a cheaper meal, most of us are still eating crap, and paying through the teeth for it.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for another way to save at the store, search for the cost per ounce on items like coffee, sugar, condiments, cereal, etc.
In speaking with Kerri’s grandfather over the holiday, who spent his career in the corporate side of grocery retail, he said that someone should do an expose on the shrinking size of products. While this may not be news for many of you, companies have continued to charge the same amount for things like mayonnaise, even though they’ve shrunk the size of the jar. The volume has changed, but the cost is the same.
I did some searching, and it turns out he’s right. From yogurt and cereal, to coffee and peanut butter, short-sizing (as it’s called in the industry), is an all too common way to pass off cost increases to customers. And they’re doing it all over the store. In fact, some news organizations did cover it, including Consumer Reports. The New York Times published an article about it back in September; it is quite an enlightening read.
I leave you today with a question: What can we do about it?
(This is not a rhetorical question.)