Food portions downsize as the economic situation and price rises begin to bite.

One realises that times are changing when the trends in food do a ‘U turn’. After years of foods ‘upsizing’ until dinner plates have had to become larger to accommodate them, the credit crisis is biting hard and consumers and producers alike are having to reconsider serving sizes. In fact portion sizes appear to be getting smaller. In line with prices reflecting what the consumer will bear, it seems that prices can no longer increase so serving sizes are ‘downsizing’ instead.

I thought it was just in Sydney that muffins were no longer monster sized but returning to their pre-fast food proportions, but the Guardian reports that:

“Even America’s pizzas are set to shrink as the nation grapples with a toxic recipe of weak consumer spending and surging prices and that the delivery chain Domino’s Pizza is drawing up plans for a “value menu” likely to involve smaller sizes. The move is in response to customers’ thrifty mood, as well as pressure from rising wheat costs.”

This follows the growing trend to a more health conscious approach to eating that has been slowly gaining ground from the over-sized portions that are fast becoming yesterday’s fare. Today however, it is the stress on people’s purses along with the sharp rise in the prices of commodities, and thus ingredients, that are starting to drive the change. Whereas in recent times, if portion sizes offered were smaller, consumers resisted on the grounds of losing value for money, today it is the consumer calling for a variety of portion sizes and menu options and manufacturers are responding.

Globe life reported last July that Montreal’s University Club was among the first to get the message that super-sized portions were falling out of fashion with diners everywhere from gourmet eateries to fast-food chains. In Canada, this had meant that manufacturers had be modifying their products to meet this demand. The current economic climate that the world finds itself in is now is changing eating patterns.

While in some poor nations the increases in commodity prices are bringing people to the point of starvation, there is the phenomenon of a growing trend toward obesity in low-income people instead of the popular perception of poor people being thin and malnourished. Patricia Aguirre of Argentina’s Ministry of Health and Social Action put forward problem in 2002 :

“Restrictions in access to food determine two simultaneous phenomena that are two sides of the same coin: poor people are malnourished because they do not have enough to feed themselves, and they are obese because they eat poorly, with an important energy imbalance. The food they can afford is often cheap, industrialized, mass produced, and inexpensive.”

According to Aguirre, the food industry favors those consumption patterns by segmenting and mass-marketing products of poor quality and higher fat and sugar content to sectors with less purchasing power. This holds true even in first world urban society where nutritious food such as high quality fruit and vegetables are more costly and so, out of the reach of poorer consumers. The foods offered to them have high energy density but are poor in essential nutrients, they satisfy but are not nourishing. With the rises in commodity prices fuelled by the biofuels revolution, it will be interesting to see if this leads to an even further degrading of the basic foods availaible to poorer sections of society. Meanwhile, those who are more affluent may benefit from the return to more appropriate portion sizes.

~ by abstraktbiblos on Sunday, 16 March, 2008.

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