ERS Charts of Note

Subscribe to get highlights from our current and past research, Monday through Friday, or see our privacy policy.
See also: Editors' Pick 2018: Best of Charts of Note gallery.

Reset

Prices for WIC foods in California are higher at smaller stores

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In fiscal 2013, USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) served an average of 8.7 million low-income participants per month, with expenditures totaling $6.4 billion. Containing program costs is a continual issue because WIC is funded annually by Congressional appropriations, making the program’s capacity largely dependent on funding levels and costs per participant. In turn, costs per participant depend in part on the prices charged for the WIC foods by WIC-authorized retailers. States are required to authorize an appropriate number and distribution of retailers to ensure adequate participant access to supplemental foods. A recent study found that smaller retailers in California charge higher prices than larger retailers for comparable WIC foods. However, prices did not decrease steadily with increases in store size. Stores with three or four check out registers had lower prices than did the smallest stores, and prices dropped again for stores with five or six registers, but prices were comparable among all stores with at least five registers. This chart is from “WIC Foods Cost More in Smaller Stores” in the September 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Price spreads are larger for more highly processed foods

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Food price spreads—the difference between a food’s retail price and the value of the farm commodities used in the food—measure the cost of processing, wholesaling, and retailing food from the farmer to consumer. Price spreads vary by food products, reflecting different degrees of processing and marketing. The price spread for white flour, which averaged 30 cents per pound over 2000-2013, is smaller than the price spread for white bread. Multiple ingredients are required to produce bread (including flour, high fructose corn syrup, and vegetable oil) and bread must be mixed, baked, sliced, packaged, and advertised. These additional processing and marketing costs resulted in an average price spread for bread of $1.13 per pound over 2000-2013. Large price spreads signal that changes in farm prices will likely have a weaker effect on retail prices. When wheat prices climbed 162 percent from 2000 to 2013, the retail price of flour rose 79 percent, while retail bread prices were only 52 percent higher. The statistics for these charts come from ERS’s data product, Price Spreads From Farm to Consumer, updated August 11, 2014.

Farm production costs accounted for 23 cents of the red meat food dollar and less than 3 cents for bakery products

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ERS’s Food Dollar Series was expanded in 2014 to include 16 commodity specific at-home food dollars that break out the value added, or cost contributions, from 12 industry groups in the U.S. food supply chain. Comparing the bakery-products dollar with the red meat-dollar highlights the larger role of processing and marketing costs for processed foods. For bakery products such as breads, crackers, cookies, and other sweet goods, processing costs were the largest cost component at 37.7 cents in 2007. In comparison, processing costs made up 18.1 cents of the beef, pork, and other red-meat food dollar, while farm production and agribusiness combined at 26.6 cents was the largest cost component. (Agribusinesses produce the services and products used by farmers, such as veterinary services and fertilizers.) For bakery products, farm-production costs was one of the smallest components at 2.3 cents, smaller than packaging and advertising. Statistics for these dollars and the other 14 commodity food dollars for benchmark years 1997, 2002, and 2007 can be found in ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product.

Three post-farm industry groups account for about 60 cents of the U.S. food dollar

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In the United States, 31.1 cents of a typical dollar spent by consumers on domestically–produced food went to pay for services provided by foodservice establishments, 15.8 cents to food processors, and 13 cents to food retailers. ERS uses input-output analysis to calculate the value added, or cost contributions, to the U.S. food dollar from 12 industry groups in the food supply chain—expanded in 2012 to include agribusiness and wholesale trade. Agribusinesses produce products and services used by farmers, such as fertilizers and veterinary services. Wholesale trade companies provide services to all industry groups for the acquisition of products, such as when farmers purchase fertilizers produced by an agribusiness, restaurants purchase takeout containers from a packaging company, and grocery stores purchase produce grown on a U.S. farm. Wholesale trade accounted for 9.3 cents of the 2012 food dollar and agribusiness accounted for 2.4 cents. Previously, wholesaling costs were included with the costs of the industry groups the wholesale companies were servicing, and agribusiness costs were combined with farm production. In 2012, farm production accounted for 9.7 cents of the food dollar. This chart is available for years 1993 to 2012 from ERS’s Food Dollar Series data product updated on May 28, 2014.

Composition of top U.S. food retailers changed between 2008 and 2012

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Grocery sales shares of the largest 4, 8, and 20 U.S. supermarket and supercenter retailers have decreased slightly since 2008, and company rankings have shifted somewhat. The 4 largest U.S. grocery retailers—Wal-Mart Stores, Kroger, Safeway, and Publix Super Markets—accounted for 36.1 percent of the $686 billion in total U.S. food and non-food (excluding fuel) grocery sales in 2012, down from 38.1 percent in 2008. Wal-Mart Supercenters maintained their dominant market share, with sales that were 53 percent higher than second-place Kroger in 2012. Ahold USA rose from sixth to fifth place despite 2012 sales that grew more slowly than in 2011. Target was among the largest 20 grocery retailers in 2012, taking the 14th spot. Target’s grocery sales rose at a faster pace in 2012 than the previous year, in contrast to the top 4 firms. SuperValu dropped from fourth to sixth place between 2011 and 2012, reflecting the late-in-the-year sale of about 90 percent of its approximately 1,900 retail outlets. Bi-Lo Holdings became the Nation’s 11th-largest grocery retailer, following the acquisition of 483 Winn-Dixie supermarkets in 2012. This chart appears in the Retailing and Wholesaling topic page on the ERS website, updated February 5, 2014.

Fruit and vegetable prices respond differently to oil price increases based on shipping route and carrier

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fresh fruit and vegetable prices are among the most volatile U.S. retail food prices. One potential source of this volatility is the price of oil, as fresh fruits and vegetables often travel long distances from field to consumer. ERS researchers found that the impact of oil price increases on wholesale produce prices depends on both the commodity shipped and the route traveled. A hypothetical doubling of oil prices would be expected to increase wholesale prices of the 6 commodities studied—asparagus, cantaloupes, bell peppers, grapes, oranges, and tomatoes—by 3 to 27 percent depending on the origin of the commodity. Generally, wholesale prices of produce grown in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are more sensitive to changes in oil prices since produce grown in North America is shipped primarily by truck, which has relatively high fuel costs per pound of produce. Fresh fruit and vegetables from South and Central America are more likely to be shipped by plane or boat, which are less fuel-intensive modes of transportation. This chart appears in “Impact of Oil Prices on Produce Prices Depends on Route and Mode of Transportation” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, released February 3, 2014.

Three-quarters of fluid milk purchases occur in supermarkets

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When purchasing food, households make many choices, including what to buy and where to shop. ERS researchers looked at how changes in income affect U.S. consumers’ milk purchasing decisions, including the type of store to patronize. They found that 72 percent of milk purchases took place in supermarkets, followed by 15 percent in supercenters and mass merchandisers. Club warehouse stores and drug stores accounted for 5 and 3 percent of milk purchases, even though these two store types had lower average milk prices than supermarkets, supercenters, or mass merchandisers. The analysis revealed that most households are unlikely to change where they buy their milk, even after large changes in income. Interestingly, a household was 6 percent more likely to buy its milk in a convenience store after its annual income dropped from $60,000 to $40,000, despite the higher price of milk in these stores. Other factors, such as the availability of a car and time to drive to a supermarket, can correlate with income and affect purchase decisions. The data for this chart are from “Changes in Income Have Small Effect on Where a Household Shops for Milk” in ERS’s July 2013 Amber Waves magazine.

Supercenters' and warehouse clubs' share of at-home food sales more than doubled during 2000-11

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In 2011, traditional foodstores—supermarkets, grocery stores, and specialty food stores—accounted for 69.9 percent of U.S. food-at-home sales, down from 76.8 percent in 2000. Much of the sales share loss by traditional foodstores came from supercenters and warehouse clubs capturing more of the food-at-home market. Over the last 11 years, warehouse clubs and supercenters’ share of food-at-home sales grew from 7.1 to 16.0 percent. More recently, dollar stores and drugstores have expanded their food offerings and increased their share of at-home food sales. Nonstore food sales—such as mail order, home delivery, and direct sales by farms, processors, and wholesalers—made up a smaller share of total at-home food sales in 2011 than in 2000, and mass merchandisers’ share dropped from 1.7 percent in 2000 to 0.6 percent in 2011. This chart appears in the Retailing & Wholesaling ERS topic page, updated March 2013.

Changes in income and retail milk prices affect type of milk purchased by U.S. households

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Consumers can buy fluid milk in a variety of forms and at a variety of prices. A recent ERS report looked at purchases of milk products that contained three different fat contents, came in two container sizes, and were produced by either conventional or organic methods. In 2007-08, conventionally produced, low-fat milk in a gallon container was the most frequently bought fluid milk product (28 percent of all milk purchases), while organic milk in all fat contents and container sizes accounted for 3 percent of milk purchases. The researchers analyzed how changes in milk prices and household income affect purchase frequency among fluid milk products. They found that an increase in income or overall milk prices raises the probability that the household will purchase low fat milk. An increase in household income also raises the probability of purchasing organic milk. In general, the demand for organic milk is more sensitive to swings in income and price than is the demand for conventional milk. This chart is based on data in the ERS report, Households’ Choices Among Fluid Milk Products: What Happens When Income and Prices Change?, released April 16, 2013.

Rising sales shares of largest U.S. food retailers dampened by 2007-09 recession

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sales by the 20 largest food retailers operating in the United States totaled $418 billion in 2011, accounting for 63.7 percent of total U.S. grocery store sales. The top 4 and 8 food retailers accounted for 37.3 percent and 50.5 percent, respectively, of total U.S. grocery store sales in 2011. With the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009), these sales shares began to flatten in 2008, contrasting with the longer term trend of increasing concentration of sales among the Nation’s largest grocery retailers. Mergers and acquisitions contributed to increasing concentration during the mid-to-late 1990s, with divestitures and internal growth playing a larger role since 2007. One contributing factor to the increases over the 1993-2008 period has been the rapid growth of Wal-Mart Supercenters. Their food and nonfood grocery sales amounted to an estimated $109 billion in 2011, making it the largest U.S. retailer of grocery products. In comparison, second-place Kroger had sales of $71 billion in 2011. This chart appears in the Retailing & Wholesaling topic page on the ERS website, updated March 27, 2013.

Farm share of retail price higher for frozen concentrate orange juice

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In 2010, Americans consumed 3.4 gallons of orange juice per person. While some families may have squeezed their own, most probably chose other options for their at-home consumption of orange juice, including purchasing frozen concentrated juice to be mixed with water, or ready-to-drink, not from concentrate (NFC) juice. Greater costs for marketing services like packaging and transportation for NFC juices show up in their higher retail prices. For the 2010-11 growing season, NFC orange juice sold in retail stores for $6.86 per gallon, on average, and frozen concentrate for $4.73 per gallon when reconstituted. While the amount of value-adding services is higher for NFC juice, the farm value of fresh Florida oranges used in both types of juice is the same--$1.04 per gallon in 2010-11. Thus, the farm share of retail price is higher for frozen concentrated orange juice. In 2010-11, the farm share was 22 percent for frozen concentrate, compared to 15 percent for NFC. This chart is based on ERS’s farm share statistics found in the Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product, updated November 2012.

Retail and farm values track more closely for whole milk than cheddar cheese

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Changes in the farm value and retail price of whole milk tend to track relatively closely over time. Milk moves from farms to retail outlets, via fluid milk processors, in a matter of days. Prices paid at each end of the supply chain are thus close together in time, and changes may be transmitted quickly from level to level. The relationship between the farm value and retail price is weaker for Cheddar cheese. Cheese manufacturing is a lengthier process than fluid milk processing, and cheese may pass through several intermediaries before reaching retail outlets. Prices at each end of the supply chain are thus farther apart in time, and changes at one level are not reflected as quickly at the other. This chart appears in "Retail Dairy Prices Respond Differently to Farm Milk Price Shocks" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Farm shares for dairy foods vary by product

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The farm share--the portion of a food's retail price that represents what farmers earn for the agricultural commodities used to produce the food--varies depending, in part, on the degree of processing. Farm shares for highly-processed foods are generally smaller than less processed foods. Dairy products are a case in point. Minimally-processed products like milk and butter have higher farm shares than cheese or ice cream. In 2010, the farm share for fresh whole milk was 54 percent, while the farm shares for Cheddar cheese and ice cream were 30 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Cheddar cheese's lower farm share reflects the costs to process milk into cheese, along with aging, cutting, shredding, packaging, and/or advertising costs. Ice cream makers have greater costs for non-milk inputs like packaging, advertising, and ingredients such as nuts and cookie bits. The data for this chart come from ERS's Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data set.

Food prices higher in 2012, but not for all categories

Monday, July 2, 2012

For most food categories and for food at home in general, prices in the first quarter of 2012 were higher than they were a year ago. Consumers faced 4.5 percent higher food prices on average at the grocery store in January-March 2012, compared to January-March 2011. Fats and oils prices were 11.3 percent higher in first quarter 2012 versus first quarter 2011, and beef prices were 8.5 percent higher. However, the warm 2011-12 winter and favorable growing conditions resulted in a year-over-year decrease in produce prices for the first quarter of 2012, with fruit prices down 1.1 percent and vegetable prices down 7.4 percent. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product on the ERS website, updated June 25, 2012.

Grocery store sales growth, 1999-2009

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

During the past decade, there were many years in which grocery store sales growth (in current dollars) exceeded the rate of inflation. In 2008 and 2009-a period of recession and economic uncertainty-traditional grocery retailers experienced negative inflation-adjusted growth. The slow and negative inflation-adjusted growth in annual sales at traditional grocery stores was likely due in part to increased competition from nontraditional food retailers-such as warehouse clubs, supercenters, drugstores, and other retailers-as more consumers economized on food spending. This chart is from the Food Marketing System in the U.S. briefing room on the ERS website, updated in November 2010.

Global expansion in modern grocery retailing

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Though modern formats-hypermarkets, supermarkets, and chained convenience stores-are proliferating in developing countries, the developed world continues to have the largest per capita market for both total grocery expenditures and total grocery sales in modern formats. Per capita expenditures in North America (excluding Mexico), Western Europe, and Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) dwarfed those of other regions in 2009; grocery expenditures were at least 3 times larger than in Eastern Europe and over 10 times larger than in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. These regional differences widen for the share of grocery expenditures in modern formats. This graph comes from the ERS report, The Expansion of Modern Grocery Retailing and Trade in Developing Countries, ERR-122, July 2011.

Share of foodstore sales by retail segment, 2009

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Traditional foodstores in the U.S. sold $548 billion of retail food and nonfood products in 2009. Grocery stores, including supermarkets, accounted for the largest share of foodstore sales (89.6 percent), followed by convenience stores without gasoline (6.4 percent). Specialized foodstores, including meat and seafood markets, produce markets, retail bakeries, and candy and nut stores, accounted for the remaining 4 percent of the total. This chart is from the Food Marketing System in the U.S. briefing room on the ERS website, updated in November 2010.

Largest four grocery retailers accounted for 37 percent of U.S. grocery sales in 2009

Friday, July 8, 2011

U.S. sales by the 20 largest food retailers totaled $404.2 billion in 2009, amounting to 64.2 percent of U.S. grocery store sales, an increase from 39.2 percent in 1992. Although shares held by the largest 4, 8, and 20 supermarket and supercenter retailers decreased slightly from 2008 to 2009, the longer term trend shows an increasing concentration of sales among the Nation's largest grocery retailers. Contributing factors to these increases over the past decade include mergers and acquisitions among food retailers and the rapid growth of Wal-Mart supercenters. This chart is from ERS's Food Marketing System in the U.S. briefing room, November 2010.

Store brand food product introductions set record in 2009

Monday, May 23, 2011

In 2009, a record-setting 810 new private-label (store brand) foods appeared on retail shelves-7 times more than in 2001. Private-label foods ranked fourth among new product claims in 2009, accounting for 3.6 percent of all new product claims-ahead of "high vitamin," "low or no trans fat," "quick," "no preservatives," and "organic." This chart appeared in the June 2010 issue of Amber Waves.

New food product introductions shrink for second consecutive year

Friday, May 13, 2011

U.S. food and beverage product introductions increased for most of the last decade and a half. Product introductions include new varieties or package sizes of existing items, as well as new products. A record 24,236 new products were introduced in 2007. In 2009, however, U.S. food and beverage product introductions fell by 3,519 to 19,047, the second consecutive yearly reduction and the largest in at least 15 years. Among the top 10 new product tags or claims, "premium" and "organic" experienced the largest declines, while private label product introductions set a new record in 2009. This chart originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Charts of Note header image for left nav