Err, yes?

The premium paid by shoppers for gluten-free versions of staple foods could increase in the coming months as the soaring cost of ingredients such as rice flour casts a shadow over the “free from” aisle in supermarkets.

These specialist foods already cost a lot more than mainstream products, making any price rise a source of concern, particularly for people who follow a gluten-free diet out of medical necessity. The scale of the problem means some firms could opt to rewrite recipes with cheaper ingredients.

This is what the price system does, is the very purpose of it. Supply shocks are transmitted to consumers thereby changing demand, demand changes are transmitted to suppliers thereby changing supply.

And?

15 thoughts on “Err, yes?”

  1. How many people choose gluten free from XY? Somewhere between 10 and 100 times as many as those with genuine medical necessity, I bet.
    Economics is about substitution as well, Timmy.

  2. it is a mixed bag for the people who really do need a gluten-free diet. Thanks to all the faddists, they have more gluten-free stuff to choose from. I remember a schoolfriend’s coeliac mum having terrible gluten-free bread. However, supply & demand (plus the natural inclination of people to rip off faddists) mean said stuff is more expensive.

    However, it is not a medical problem, because no one actually needs any of these ‘free from’ products.

  3. My ex is coeliac. So I’m not exactly a stranger to this. The reason genuine gluten free is expensive is a lot to do with keeping gluten out of the products. Running a totally separate production line for relatively small quantities. So almost all the price is added value. The cost of the rice or corn flour is a minimal factor.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    If prices are rising and faddists have to switch to gluten products its doing them a favour. Being gluten free has serious health issues like increased heart disease.

  5. Because I am a diabetic, I often eat burgen bread which is low in carbohydrates compared with ordinary bread. I can eat ordinary bread of course, the burgen bread is just one way of keeping my carb intake down. I found that Tesco have their burgen bread in the specialist food aisle and is expensive. Asda have theirs with the regular bread and is about the same price.

  6. Bloke: I remember when my milkman used to supply green top milk (raw, unpasturised) it was more expensive than the coloured water because he had to go to great lengths to stop the unpasturised milk contanimating the pasturised milk, He eventually threw his hands up and the extra expense and duel-inspection system and abandonded supplying it. (Unless you happen to drive past at 4am 😉

  7. BiS is absolutely spot on. It’s the cost of production not the cost of the ingredients. It’s why some food production sites are strictly gluten free and I mean gluten free. Don’t even think about taking a sandwich for your own lunch past the gates. And a PITA for ingredients suppliers, who have to produce reams of paperwork before they can get anything in there, even for the “normal” product runs.

  8. Gus is right. It’s not just gluten free. It’s completely gluten free. Even residual wheat flour dust in the building can cause problems. So milling corn or rice in the same place as wheat has been milled in the past. Unless they superclean. All surfaces & fittings washed off.
    Not sure if the food faddists haven’t made it worse for coeliacs. You’ve got so many brainless cvnts telling people they are gluten intolerant. But if you slipped them a bacon sandwich made with ordinary bread they’d be none the worse if nobody told them. So it gets regarded as trivial. You do the same to my ex you could put her in hospital. Maybe cause permanent damage to her insides & knock a few years off her life expectancy. Worse way, put her in a box.

  9. My daughter has a friend who apparently comes out I violent rashes if she eats gluten. Her mother, who claims every allergy known to man, is utterly paranoid about it. Odd thing is when she stays with her father he feeds herbal the standard gluteny stuff and she’s absolutely fine. So it does get trivialised and it must be really annoying for those that genuinely suffer.

  10. All good points. Being allergic to gluten the fade eaters have done me a massive favour. But also caused problems as it is assumed my requirement is a fad as well and therefore have been given, more than once, stuff containing gluten ‘as we didn’t think it mattered that much’.
    It’s the cross contamination that’s the issue, and perhaps some IP on the recipe. So this needs a special set up and that costs money. Lindt for example make there 90% chocolate in one place, their 85% somewhere else which also handles gluten. I react to the 85% but not the 90%.

  11. Its starting to bother me how these articles about a ‘problem’ are always written about some tiny minority of people – where the author themselves doesn’t even know how many – and this is used as a ‘moral’ justification for why the rest of us must do something.

    Gotta do something about the .55 of the population that can’t eat bread – and no, telling them ‘don’t eat bread’ isn’t *fair*!!11111

    Some crazy bitch on Twitter puts out a list of ‘harmful’ ‘ableist’ words – don’t say ‘touch grass’ because some people can’t go outside. What? No, I’m not restricting or adjusting my life to accommodate your issues.

  12. @Agammamon 5:09pm
    See also novel coronaviruses that may have “escaped” from a wet market in Wuhan…

  13. The Pedant-General

    I happen to know a LOT about this. Tim can verify.

    “The scale of the problem means some firms could opt to rewrite recipes with cheaper ingredients.”

    This is not true. Quite apart from the need to be almost completely sterile, GF bread is really really REALLLY hard to make. Bread is basically just flour and water. The gluten is the component that stops that mixture being simply glue. Getting the right mix of ingredients to make something remotely palatable is really really really hard and the recipes are extremely sensitive to change. Individual batches of ingredients from the same supplier can have radically different properties which causes nightmares.

    Gus is also completely right – the cost of ingredients is trivial in comparison to everything else. The real issue is that your plant is producing 10k loaves per day rather than 1M – the sort of scale that Warburtons run at. That scale factor of 100 precludes a whole stack of automation to drive down the marginal cost of production.

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