Date of this Version
University of Nebraska Studies: New Series no. 28
Baking is one of the largest industries in the United States. Its sales, which exceed $4 billion annually, rank it third among the food processing industries, and thirteenth among all manufacturing industries. Bakery products account for nearly $1 out of every $10 spent by American consumers for food. Almost half of the domestic consumption of wheat flour is in the form of bread, rolls, cake, pie, doughnuts, sweet goods, and other perishable bakery products. While this study encompasses the perishable bakery products industry as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, it focuses primarily on wholesale markets for white bread.
Since World War II, important changes have occurred in the bread baking industry. A decline in the per capita demand for bread products coupled with changes in technology and costs has affected the relationships between baking companies, their market behavior, and the resulting level of efficiency and price performance. In an industrial economy, the farming, milling, baking, retailing, and consuming functions are integrally related. Changes in the organization and practices in one may induce changes in others. The baking industry occupies a strategic position in this process, and as a result, consumers, farmers, millers, and retailers, as well as bakers themselves, have a vital interest in the way the baking industry performs.
Changes in market structure and firm behavior in the baking industry have been the subject of study and concern by several interested individuals and groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has followed with increased concern the widening of the market margin and the declining farmer share of consumer bread prices. The Senate Agricultural Committee has completed a study of average cost and returns of bakery operations.The Federal Trade Commission has followed the pricing practices of many baking companies with frequent cease and desist orders. I> The Justice Department, through periodic prosecutions, has kept baking firms aware of the limitation imposed by the antitrust laws. The Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly has studied the impact of "discriminatory pricing" by large baking companies on small independent bakers.7 The industry has encouraged economic study of the historic development of baking and changes in market organization and practices.s Most recently, the F.T.C. studied buyer concentration and the integration of retail grocery organizations into baking and other food processing industries.