November 7, 2011
Yesterday’s staples become today’s indulgences
Denmark’s new “fat tax” on foods like butter and potato chips—anything with more than 2.3% saturated fat—is a reminder of just how much yesterday’s staple has become today’s indulgence. Our rising awareness of health and wellness issues is only part of it. Consumers are grappling with consciences and costs: There’s the guilt over a product or service’s environmental or human impact and the impact of rising food prices. In the past year, for example, British and Hungarian consumers have seen weekly grocery bills increase by more than 6% (the EU average was 3.3%), and Americans have similarly seen the so-called “food at home” Consumer Price Index jumping by 6.3%.
As a result, things we previously consumed with little thought now feel more like a treat. Even that humble PB&J sandwich: Following an abysmal peanut harvest, major peanut butter brands in the U.S. are raising their prices, by 20% to as much as 40%. While some people will rein in their consumption, others will rebel against the new constraints, monetary or otherwise. But “living it up” may soon mean simply a drive to the store (using pricey, CO2-emitting fuel) and buying a bag of chips.
Image credit: eddie.welker