For most people, especially those with fixed incomes, household budgets have to be balanced and sometimes the balance is precarious. With price rises of foods, there is a switch to a cheaper substitute within the group, or if it is a food for which there is no real substitute, reduced purchases follow. The annual and quarterly reviews of the National Food Survey over the years have shown this to be so; with carcase meat, where one meat is highly priced, housewives switch to a cheaper joint, and this is mainly the reason for the great increase in consumption of poultry; when recently the price of butter rose sharply, there was a switch to margarine. NFS statistics did not show any lessening of consumer preference for butter, but in most households, with budgets on a tight string, margarine had to be used for many purposes for which butter had previously been used. With those foods which have no substitute, and bread (also milk) is a classic example, to keep the sum spent on the food each week about the same, the amount purchased is correspondingly reduced. Again, NFS statistics show this to be the case, a practice which has been responsible for the small annual reductions in the amount of bread consumed per person per week over the last fifteen years or so; very small, a matter of an ounce or two, but adequate to maintain the balance of price/quantity since price rises have been relatively small, if fairly frequent. This artifice to absorb small price rises will not work, however, when price rises follow on one another rapidly and together are large. Bread is a case in point.
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