These times are anything but normal, but it could be worse. To support the industry, editor Dan Malovany is doing his fair share to keep the economy in the dumps.

Anything But Normal

“Normal couple weds at Taco Bell.” Now that headline is just plain weird.

    In fact, the only ordinary thing about it was that the couple hails from Normal, Ill. At the reception, which cost a grand total of $200, the bride was decked out in a $15 hot pink dress, the Internet-ordained minister wore a T-shirt and hot sauce packets carried the words, “Will you marry me?”

    I know these are hard times, but this whole event redefines the meaning of “Desperate Housewives.”

    Yes, the economy remains in the dumps, and the headlines in the business world are all about bad news. And guess what? It’s all because of people like me. Since the credit crisis blew away everybody’s 401K last fall, consumers have started penny pinching everywhere they can to save money.

    Fortunately, the snack food and wholesale baking industry is pretty much insulated unless your company needs access to credit or a loan. In fact, several segments like the frozen dessert and pizza categories are doing quite well because people aren’t eating out too often.

    Besides, which would you rather have - wildly fluctuating commodity prices like we had this year or the deep recession of today? Food companies will take a recession in a heartbeat.

    First, fuel prices are half of what they were last year. Second, commodities have settled down, and profits are more predictable.

    To support the industry, I’m doing my fair share to keep the economy in the dumps, and please don’t rush to thank me. I have millions of friends who are doing the same.

    Last fall, in spite of the deals, I put off buying a new car until later this year or maybe next, depending on if or when there’s an economic recovery. Like many consumers, I eat lunch at work and I’m spending less when I eat out.

    Again, I’m not alone. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), foodservice sales are expected to drop 1% this year after inflation, and I think that’s incredibly optimistic. With the exception of fast food, foodservice sales will be flat at best and just plain lousy for casual dining and upscale establishments. In fact, in a recent poll, more than 40% of restaurant operators predicted that sales for 2009 will be worse than 2008, according to the NRA. Another 30% said they would be flat at best.

    Perhaps a final sign of an economic morass is that consumers have begun to trade down or buy items only when they are on sale. This is not good news for our industry. Once again, consumers are being conditioned not to pay full price, and if our industry doesn’t watch out, price wars are going to become a reality in every corner of the market.

    Sure, these times are anything but normal, but it could be worse. Just look what’s in the headlines. Bakery products have become weapons.

    A contestant on The Biggest Loser was arrested for assaulting a housemate with a bag of flour in his basement apartment in Detroit.

    A Florida man was arrested for battery after he hit his girlfriend with a sandwich, knocking off her glasses and almost causing a car accident. The motive? They were arguing about insurance.

    No word on what type of sandwich was used.

    But there is a bright side to this story. At least, the guy and his girlfriend won’t be celebrating in Taco Bell anytime soon.

Dan Malovany, editor



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