Yes, it’s the drought’s fault. But, it’s not connected to food prices in the way you probably think.
The Midwest U.S. drought seems to be hitting the corn crop quite hard, with production estimated to be at least 16% lower than originally forecast for 2012. Other popular Midwestern crops like wheat and soybeans will also be damaged, but they may not have as significant an impact on overall food prices.
Corn is a crucial ingredient in many things we eat. It’s the basis of corn syrup, both the high fructose and regular fructose versions, both of which are in virtually every processed food we eat — and especially sodas and snacks.
What’s not so evident is that prices for meat and dairy products will rise, too. Farmers use corn-based feed for their animals, and meat and dairy products all come from those animals. As those costs of input rise, so will prices. (It gets more complicated than this, with some farmers culling herds because the cost of feed is too expensive, so that increases market supply. But, anyway…)
Put it all together, and the USDA was estimating food prices would rise 3 to 4 percent.
Every year, the Boston area’s Mass Innovation Nights hosts a special edition just for the food business. The founder, Bobbie Carlton, asked me to serve as an expert advisor at last week’s event.
By popular vote, four products presented their food industry innovations at the event:
Pipe Dream Cupcakes: A cupcake truck! This totally takes the food truck trend to a new level. I know, this probably exists in Brooklyn already – but this truck serves suburban Boston.
Stump Chunks Fire Starter: These tree trunk shavings and pieces are the best way to start a fire (for a barbeque or otherwise), according to Stump Chunks. I’ll be trying my sample this weekend.
Bell Tower Mobile Mart: It’s like an ice cream truck for groceries. (To be seen whether they will serve Pipe Dream Cupcakes!) They are just about to get started in some Boston neighborhoods, and they’ll deliver healthy food to areas that need it.
EarthHook: Made for grocery carts, this hook allows a shopper to hang their reusable bags outside the cart so they don’t get smooshed up. And the thing that holds on to the
People outside the grocery business are usually shocked at how much data we have available to us. Likewise, those in the business often forget how lucky we are. Those who transition to other industries have a hard time conducting analyses, simply because they don’t have enough information available to them.
As a basic level, most CPG manufacturers can see detailed information on what sells in their categories, in most U.S. supermarkets and a smattering of other retailers (including Walmart, as this spring), broken down weekly, and spanning 50 to 100 metrics. This includes their items, plus their competitors items, and more if they decide to buy that data.
It’s an amazing business. Two companies in the U.S., SymphonyIRI (formerly Information Resources Inc.) and Nielsen (same company that does TV tracking) buy data from most supermarkets in the country. That data represents every item that scans through a cash register at a supermarket that’s part of the network. SymphonyIRI and Nielsen process the data, enhance it, and resell it to hundreds of manufacturers. Generically speaking, we refer to this as syndicated data.
Why in the world would a supermarket part ways with one of its most precious assets,
McDonald’s Canada gives us a look at the difference between a Quarter Pounder bought in-store versus one styled for photography.
Found via Kottke.org, which notes, “the burger at the restaurant is optimized for eating and the photo burger is optimized for looking delicious.”
Glass gem corn, via the Seeds Trust Facebook page
Amazingly, it’s real. It was brought to my attention by Edible Geography. Apparently, this is how corn looked before it was domesticated by humans. See more details and more photos in their post.