Food Prices are Up! But, how are consumers reacting?
I think they are getting sharper, becoming more aware of just how far their dollar can stretch. It’s a good thing this is happening because manufacturers are doing the same thing. Look at what the New York Times* had to say:
“consumers are beginning to encounter shrinking food packages.”
“shoppers are paying the same amount, but getting less.”
“For Lisa Stauber, stretching her budget to feed her nine children in Houston often requires careful monitoring at the store. Recently, when she cooked her usual three boxes of pasta for a big family dinner, she was surprised by a smaller yield, and she began to suspect something was up.
“”Whole wheat pasta had gone from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces,”" she said.” “I bought three boxes and it wasn’t enough – that was a little embarrassing. I bought the same amount I always buy, I just didn’t realize it, because who reads the sizes all the time?”"
Ms. Stauber, 33, said she began inspecting her other purchases, aisle by aisle. Many canned vegetables dropped to 13 or 14 ounces from 16; boxes of baby wipes went to 72 from 80; and sugar was stacked in 4-pound, not 5-pound, bags, she said.
Five or so years ago, Ms. Stauber bought 16-ounce cans of corn. Then they were 15.5 ounces, then 14.5 ounces, and the size is still dropping. “”The first time I’ve ever seen an 11-ounce can of corn at the store was about three weeks ago, and I was just floored,” she said. “It’s sneaky, because they figure people won’t know.”"
The driving force behind shrinking packages?
1) Increased food and raw material prices,
2) consumer’s normal decision-making style:
“Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity,” according to John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School.
Apparently consumers are catching on to shrinking quantities which are being served up in rather “difficult to notice” packaging. Kudos to the consumer who notices the distinctions in package sizing and pricing. Perhaps he/she can make better decisions to stretch his/her dollar and to help reshape the consumer food market.
*New York Times, March 28.2011, S. Clifford and C. Rampell
Food Safety from Allan
What About the Packaging?
Consumers demand safe food, as well they should. But what about the packaging that contains the food? Can the packaging contaminate the food even if the food producer uses all the available food safety procedures? The answer is a resounding – maybe.
Packaging materials are regulated by the FDA. The rules essentially state that the packaging can’t contaminate or adulterate the food. This statement means that the components in the packaging don’t become part of the food or if they do, the amount is considered safe for consumption. Do the regulations say that all packaging must be FDA approved? Not really. If a manufacturer determines that the substances in the packaging do not migrate out of the packaging, then the packaging is not subject to FDA review. Is this a cause for concern among food producers? The answer is again – maybe. Most USA packaging manufacturers are very aware of potential migration issues with their materials, and possess in-house data to support non-migration contentions or the packaging has been otherwise subjected to FDA review. Foreign packaging producers may or may not possess such data or reviews. Always obtain that letter of guarantee or other document that attests to the quality and applicability of the packaging.
Okay, my packaging is from a reputable producer, so I’m good to go, right? Again a resounding – maybe. When received at the food packing facility, the food packaging is likely to be clean, sanitary and acceptable. However, activities within the packing facility can and do lead to packaging contamination, and such can lead to food adulteration. Check the facility and ask these questions about the packaging materials.
Are the materials stored inside and enclosed?
Are they off the floor?
Are they stored separately from raw food products?
Are they stored separately from finished food products?
Are they stored separately from allergens?
Are they stored separately from other non-food items?
Are they covered?
Is the covering allowable for food contact?
Is the packaging storage area clean?
Are there current cleaning records?
Are there appropriate written cleaning procedures?
Are packaging materials labeled for proper rotation?
Is there evidence of packaging contamination?
The above questions are not all inclusive, but they will get the ball rolling to ensure that the food packaging isn’t a food safety concern. Nothing like rat poop or some insects to upset the apple cart (or whatever commodity).
Until next time,
Hartono and Company LLC
Food Safety Consulting