Will Holiday Shoppers Spend More on Food Than Gifts?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Whether your holiday tradition involves a buffet brunch or a sit-down dinner with seven fishes, abundant amounts of food will be featured. And with the cost of food outpacing the rate of inflation over the past year, entertaining your crowd will be pricey.

Nancy Childs, Ph.D., chair and professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, says the cost of food is rising around the globe. "In China, there is social unrest over a sharp rise in the cost of noodles. In Italy, consumer protests over the cost of pasta is making headlines," she remarks. "We have a trend under way that I don't see reversing. This is a regulated market with price controls that have implications for demand and supply that's out of sync,"

For example, in America, consumers expect to include fresh fruit on the holiday table, and the expectation is to pay summer prices for our produce. "In response to this kind of consumer demand, the food industry has very rapidly moved to outsourcing the food supply," explains Childs. "Counter-seasonal products, like fruit, have traveled a long way to get here. There are significant energy costs associated with transporting and maintaining perishables."

"It's all about more – more people around the globe eating more grain, more cattle and using more energy to transport, process, package and refrigerate their food.  Include the factors of lower European food subsidies resulting in higher prices, a lower valued dollar to purchase imported foods, diversion of grain for food to ethanol production, higher costs for field labor at home, and weather disruptions like the prolonged drought in Australia and you have all factors pushing upward on food prices."

Childs can be reached for comment at 610-660-1643, by e-mail at nchilds@sju.edu or by contacting University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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