Thursday, October 22, 2009


There was a time when salaried class of consumers made only monthly purchases from their family stores, that too on credit and monthly bills were settled after receiving the salary for the previous month. People settled in places far away from the urban markets also do bulk purchase to avoid traveling too frequently. With the advent of large modern wholesale stores selling products in large packs at discounted prices, bulk buying trend became part of the life styles of modern day families. One of the criticisms leveled against such practices is that consumer buys more than what he really needs leading to unnecessary wastage. Food is a material with relatively short shelf life and bulk buying is confined to mostly dry products with longer life. Continuous efforts by food technologists to evolve technologies that can give extra life to processed products have enabled industry to manufacture some foods with shelf life as long as two years!

Recent reports emanating from the US do indicate a trend where shelf stable products with assured quality and safety and long life are attracting the attention of the retailers and consumers. "Costco is selling an entire year's supply of food for $800. That's only $67 a month. Made by a company called Shelf Reliance, it's all freeze-dried or dehydrated and is primarily marketed as emergency food (10-20 year shelf life). However, it also claims to taste pretty good, and they suggest to use it in rotation as a regular meal supplement". Probably with the recession now affecting the people in a serious way, consumers may go for such a strategy to reduce their food bill significantly.

It is a universal truth that no matter what technology one uses, foods have finite life and it deteriorates progressively, at least chemically producing artifacts some of which can affect the eating quality and some others impacting on health. Therefore the new strategy of capturing market through bulk selling of foods to meet one year's requirement is fraught with implications on the health of the consumer. It is true astronauts, spending months together in the outer space, do eat such foods, not willingly but out of compulsions and whether this strategy will work on terra firma remains to be seen.

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