December 1, 2007
Dan Malovany, editor
It’s that time of the year everyone loves. Before pickling my palate with copious amounts of the finest holiday spirits, I’m cleaning the slate ... and you all know what that means: two columns for the price of one.
As Tammy Young, the vivacious CEO of La Bonita Olé, likes to say: “Hootie Hoo!”
Let’s start on a serious note. This year was one of the most challenging for the snack and baking industry, which faced unprecedented fuel and energy costs, historically high commodity prices and soaring health care expenses. But what was the single biggest concern regarding production costs?
That’s what we asked on our Web site in September and October, and the lucky winner, with a 32.08% of the vote, is: wheat and commodity prices.
I know what you’re all thinking: Hootie Hoo!
Yes, those dang wheat prices doubled in 2007. They took the lead from corn prices, which remained at high levels as ethanol production ramped up in a big way. But now everyone realizes that we have this huge freakin’ glut for that alternative fuel, and ethanol prices have gone down the tubes.
I’m no expert on gas — thank goodness for that — but I just don’t understand the politics around this issue. Hmmm, the price of corn — despite a bumper crop — is 40% higher than it was a year ago, and the price of ethanol is at 52-week low. As a result, some companies are shutting down construction of ethanol plants temporarily, and that’s despite the fact that they get gobs of subsidies from the government to produce ethanol from corn.
So what are the folks in Washington trying to do? Pass legislation that would substantially increase mandated amount of ethanol and biofuels produced annually by 2022?
I’m not sure if the legislation is in the Farm Bill, Energy Bill or Uncle Bill. It changes by the day, but you would think that the wonks in D.C. might consider a long-term solution by finding an alternative fuel that doesn’t force companies to raise the price of bread by 25% and milk and meat prices by even more. All you need is one bad crop, and food prices will fly out of control.
The conventional wisdom of using tons of food to replace about 5% of fuel seems a little rump-backwards. Why not invest in new technology for cellulose ethanol, which reduces carbon emissions by 91% compared with gasoline? I know the technology isn’t there, but why not develop it first and then mandate the increases in biofuels? Look into the positioning by the Grocery Marketing Association at www.GMAbrands.com. The GMA is heading a loose coalition that includes the American Bakers Association to add a little logic to the debate on this issue.
But back to Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery’s online poll. After commodities, 30.19% of respondents list health care and benefits as their biggest concerns, followed by energy and fuel costs (16.98%), finding skilled labor (16.98%) and, lastly, government regulations (3.77%). Obviously, pocketbook issues today are much more important to respondents than what’s happening in the nation’s Beltway.
Check out our current poll on why bakers and snack producers buy new equipment. Don’t forget to vote early and often at www.SnackAndBakery.com .
Hey, what’s this in my mailbox? Oh, joy — a personalized press release on “How to eat like a celebrity during the holidays.”
If you’re looking to keep those extra holiday pounds at bay, celebrity chef Phillip Andriano has some great tips for you. If you are offered a breadbasket, for example, you can always politely decline. Try to avoid potatoes and corn, because they contain more sugar than other veggies. That’s just perfect for the snack and baking industry. Go to www.ChefsDiet.com, and tell ‘em where to stick it.
Or do what Debbie Cassell, our managing editor, suggests: “The real way to eat like a celebrity during the holidays,” she says, “is to throw up after every meal.”
Hootie Hoo! And, Happy Holidays to you.