Those scary low prices in the bread aisle are doing strange things to editor Dan Malovany, who can’t believe what he is seeing these days.




Scary Low Prices

Just the other day, I was walking through the bread aisle at the local supermarket in Chicago when I saw a wide-panned loaf of double fiber bread selling at $1.77, and shouted like a complete idiot, “Wow! That’s a Low Price.”

Then I saw white bread for even cheaper.

“Wow! That’s a Low Price.”

What the heck is happening to me? I’m terrifying my fellow shoppers because I turned into that geek on those hyper-annoying Staples commercials.

Perhaps the only thing scarier is showing up as “The King” at a tailgate party.

Yes, pricing has gotten so low that it’s downright frightening. In fact, I was just on the phone with Theresa Cogswell, the former chairwoman of the American Society of Baking, and told her I couldn’t believe the deal that I got on that loaf of bread that normally costs $3.49. I simply bought it because of its low price. Goodness knows, my constitution doesn’t need any more fiber than it already has.

But then, Theresa one-upped me. She bought the same loaf of double fiber bread for 91 cents at her local supermarket in Kansas City.

Wow! That’s a freakin’ unbelievable low price!

Just when I start to think I know what’s going on, this wacky industry proves me wrong again and again.

Take gluten-free products. My general philosophy is that I would have to be totally hammered at 3 a.m. to
eat a sandwich made with gluten-free bread. I mean, that is the only time most people develop a craving for White Castle Sliders, right?

Recently, we received a couple of sample loaves of a new gluten-free bread. Naturally, I passed on the offer, mumbling something politically incorrect like, “I would have to have Celiac disease to eat this stuff.”

That’s when one of the guys in our office gave the bread to a friend with Celiac disease, and he absolutely loved it. Apparently, he hadn’t eaten anything that’s tasted even close to real bread for years, and he wanted to know where he could buy more. And, now I’m eating a crow sandwich.

So what do I know? Again, nothing. With the economy in the dumps, I wondered why anyone would be goofy enough to play in the organic baked goods market. Certainly, it must be in the tank, and for some players, it probably is. But for some established brands such as Rudi’s Organic, produced by Charter Baking Co. of Boulder, Colo., sales are still in the single digits. That’s because the higher-educated, true believers in the organic movement are committed to their cause and are still paying a pretty penny for organic products.

Actually, 2009 sales for organic baked goods may have seemed worse than they were because they had been so strong between 2000 and 2008, notes Beth Naffziger, director of marketing, French Meadow Bakery, Minneapolis.

“Consumers began actively looking for ways to reign in spending, and cutting back on organic products became one way to do so,” Naffziger says. “Some who might have been transitioning into organic products had to take a step back for financial reasons. However, people continue to be increasingly concerned about the foods they eat and feed their families so the category will continue to grow, but at a slower pace than it was before the economic downturn.”

In addition to buying fewer products, some consumers who dabbled in organic baked goods may have switched to more affordable all-natural products, but it’s certainly not the end of the world for the organic market, which is slowly rebounding.

As for me, I’m just a regular guy who will even buy double fiber bread anytime it’s at those super-discounted prices. But what does a guy have to do to get such breads for under a buck in Chicago?

Maybe they’ll start selling them at Staples.