Food Prices

by Lisa Rosen on April 20, 2011

Last month I read this article in The New York Times with great interest. The very next day, I tuned in to the Diane Rehm Show on public radio, and heard this program, about the very same topic.

Food prices are going up.

The interesting part, though, is the way manufacturers are trying to preempt the increases.  They’re reducing package sizes, so that they can hold prices steady.  Theoretically this will keep consumers from freaking out at the sticker shock.

I have two observations (I was lifting weights while I listened, avidly, to the Diane Rehm episode, so I was able to really focus and think about the issue; it’s been on my mind ever since).

1)  The package-shrinking issue that both the radio program and the NYT article discuss is pretty specific to packaged food.  It seems to me that if you avoid things like goldfish and pretzels, and stick to basic ingredients, you’re more likely to be buying things by the pound, so you should (theoretically, if you pay attention to such things) be more aware of any price increase, and less susceptible to sneaky marketing practices.  A pound of broccoli is a pound of broccoli.

2) When it comes to junk food (again, like goldfish and pretzels), it seems to me that smaller packages are probably a good thing.  I mean, who really needs a giant bag of potato chips?  The excess packaging of those little 100-calorie packs freaks me out, but from a health standpoint, they’re brilliant.  Okay, not brilliant–they’re still goldfish and pretzels, after all, which hardly count as food–but still helpful for those of us who have trouble stopping after a reasonable portion.

Ironic, no?  We’re a nation with a massive obesity problem, and we’re annoyed that our food is coming in smaller packages.

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