Earlier we asked your thoughts on the Best of 2008, and that included your favorite grocery store of the year. Although prices went through the roof on everything from beef to dairy, you chose Trader Joe's as your number-one pick. For the second year in a row, it was the clear winner, taking 39 percent of the vote. We must be on the same wavelength because Trader Joe's is Yum's supermarket fave, too. We love TJ's because it offers a variety of unique, all-natural food choices without breaking the bank. It's got a frozen-food selection, cheese offering, and wine section. We wish every grocer could offer the same value for the quality. In fact, we love the store so much that we experimented with a cookbook that exclusively calls for items from Trader Joe's. What are your reasons for preferring TJ's?
As we continue our coverage of the Best of 2008, I want to know which grocer is your favorite.
This year, we saw the cost of food increase across the board. With consumers on a tighter budget, pricier grocers such as Whole Foods have suffered. To keep up, these supermarkets are advertising deeper discounts.
Has 2008's economic environment affected your grocery store preferences at all?
This year, consumers witnessed a lot of cost increases in food, so it's only natural that the price of Thanksgiving dinner has crept up, too. Agriculture experts estimate that Thanksgiving costs have risen by an average of six percent this year, and the American Farm Bureau, which conducts a Thanksgiving yearly survey, cited $44.61 as the average cost of a Thanksgiving for 10 in 2007.
I'm not surprised; in fact, I'm certain that I spend at least twice as much on my Thanksgiving dinner. How much do you plan to shell out?
The fast food chain's decision to move in the direction of higher-price items comes at a time when the casual restaurant industry is struggling. National chains have seen declining sales across the board; Burger King is hoping to capitalize on the industry's market share.
CEO John Chidsey said he wouldn't elaborate further "because some things are still under wraps," but the chain's gourmet menu items could be advertised as soon as next Summer.
Still, Burger King has no plans to lose its value menu. "We work the value for the money equation on both ends of our menu," said Russ Klein, Burger King's president of global strategy.
Does Burger King's new strategy surprise you? Do you think the corporation will manage to draw business away from the casual restaurant business?
Americans may love kicking back with beer, but times are tough. That's why an increasing number of beer drinkers are swapping their microbrews for what are called "subpremium" beers in the beverage industry.
Anheuser-Busch has reported that its brands Busch and Natural Light have seen upticks in sales. Other beers — from Miller High Life to Milwaukee's Best to Hamm's to Keystone — have also been attracting a larger percentage of consumers.
To the beer industry's dismay, the increase in subpremium beer sales is happening at the expense of its higher-end beers, such as Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft. Said one MillerCoors wholesaler: "I'm selling way more economy brands than I'm comfortable with . . . consumers are trading down."
Is this the case for you? Have you also been purchasing less costly beer options?
Top fast food chain McDonald's announced its third-quarter earnings today, and made reassurances that it would continue its efforts to be "recession-resistant."
The corporation made sure to squash swirling rumors that its dollar menu may become a thing of the past. There will, in fact, still be a dollar menu. "We advertised it heavily in September," said COO Ralph Alvarez. "We wouldn't have done that if we were going to be walking away from it."
McDonald's has, however, been testing the menu's key item, the double cheeseburger, at higher prices and with one piece of cheese rather than two, as a result of the rising commodity costs. "We expect to have a decision [on the double cheeseburger] soon," said CEO Jim Skinner. Will you be watching to see what's on the new dollar menu?
Although prices of almost everything have soared, good deals do exist. The New York Times scoured the boroughs to see what kind of fare could be had for $1, and earlier this year, New York magazine proclaimed that "beggars can be choosers" when it comes to 99-cent finds. Even in my expensive backyard, the Bay Area, there are deals to come by. My favorite bargain? The 99-cent, foot-long hot dog with all-you-can-eat ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut at Slots-a-Fun in Las Vegas. I also love the McCormick & Schmick's $2 bar menu, which includes mussels and burgers. I have to say that when it comes to these prices, value does in fact have a taste: delicious.
What about you? What's the best thing you can find at a rock-bottom price?
With cheese prices slipping while raw materials prices multiply, producers of Italy's parmigiano reggiano are turning to the government to remedy a dire situation. The wholesale price of parmiggiano reggiano has fallen below the cost of producing it. Cheese prices have dropped as the result of two factors. First, the availability of parmesan has increased: The sector produces 11 percent more cheese compared to eight years ago. Second, Italians are reacting to the economic downturn by purchasing less of the so-called "King of Cheese."
Producers complain that a select group of supermarkets are able to dictate low prices by buying the bulk of the cheese produced. "This is a prized product. There ought to be policies to safeguard those who produce it," said farmers group Coldiretti.
The group is lobbying the government to temporarily suspend an antitrust law so that producers can cooperate together to reduce output, rather than being wiped out by the competitive market.
Have you heard about the parmigiano reggiano crisis? Have you bought less parmesan cheese as a result of the rising cost of raw materials?
Natural and organic supermarket Whole Foods really wants to be there for you during tough times. In fact, the retailer wants to give you a deal so badly that it's posted a printable online coupon for $5 off.
The discount is part of a new Whole Foods value guide called the Whole Deal. According to Whole Foods, the program is about "giving you the whole story, so you'll know just how to get the most bang for your buck without sacrificing the benefits of natural and organic foods." The packet, available in stores, contains more coupons, budget recipes, and recession-proof cooking tips.
Will you be downloading the coupon and running to the nearest Whole Foods to get your hands on the Whole Deal, or do you think this is just another marketing ploy?
Hit by the worsening economy and the rising costs of raw materials, candy giant Hershey's has not only raised candy prices, but has also begun replacing cocoa butter, the ingredient that allegedly gives Hershey's candies their delicious flavor, with vegetable oil.
The formulas of candy products such as Whatchamacallit, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbar, and Krackel, among other candies, have been changed. Since experts say that the change was meant to go unnoticed by consumers, why the copy edit? Because without cocoa butter, FDA rules will not allow the product to be called milk chocolate.
The new formula has little impact on the nutritional value of the chocolate, and a Today Show blind taste test showed that half of the consumers actually preferred the new vegetable oil formulations. Fans after the taste of authentic milk chocolate can still find the real deal in Hershey's Kisses, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and the classic Hershey's chocolate bar. If in doubt, avoid labels that read "chocolate candy," "chocolaty," or "made with chocolate."
What do you think of this news? If you eat Hershey's candies often, have you noticed a difference? Do you feel cheated by the news of cocoa butter being removed?