WASHINGTON — For the first time in 34 years, and only the sixth time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the category in 1936, the Consumer Price Index for baked foods and cereal products finished lower in 2010, falling 0.8%. The loss comes on the heels of a three-year stretch in which the index gained 4.4%, 10.2% and 3.2% in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.
And, after three years in which the C.P.I. for every category of grain-based foods increased in the 12-month period that ended in December, several categories posted decreases during 2010.
The all food at home index, which increased 6.4% in 2008, rose 0.3% in 2010 after rising 0.5% in 2009. It marked only the third time in the past 40 years that the year-over-year gain was less than 1% (it was 0.7% in 1992).
Within the Cereal and Bakery Products category, no sub-categories posted increases of greater than 1% during 2010. The sharpest gain was scored in the frozen and refrigerated bakery products sub-category, which rose 0.7%. Several categories, including cookies and the fresh sweet rolls, coffeecakes and donuts categories, each rose 0.5%.
The price index for Bakery Products fell 0.4% in 2010, which compared with increases of 3% in 2009, 10.3% in 2008 and 4.5% in 2007. Two segments within this category — bread and fresh biscuits, rolls and muffins — were introduced in 1998 with a base of December 1997. All other products are based on a 1982-84 average.
In the bread segment, the index fell 1.7% during 2010 after rising 1.3% in 2009 and a staggering 14.6% in 2008. Within the segment, white bread fell 2%, which compared with advances of 1.2% in 2009, 14.1% in 2008, 8.4% in 2007, 2.5% in 2006, and 3.9% in 2005. It was only the third time since 1940 that the index for white bread finished lower for the year (down 0.7% in 1944 and down 1.8% in 1976). Bread other than white declined 1.4% from a year ago, compared with gains of 1.3% in 2009, 15.6% in 2008, 6.2% in 2007, 4.2% in 2006, and 4.7% in 2005. The decline in 2010 marked the only time the bread other than white category has finished lower year over year since the B.L.S. began tracking the index in 1978.
The index for cakes, cupcakes and cookies rose 0.3% in 2010, which compared with gains of 3.9% in 2009, 9.5% in 2008, 4% in 2007, 1.5% in 2006, and 2.4% in 2005.
The C.P.I. for other bakery products rose 0.5% in 2010. This compared with gains of 4% in 2009, 7.3% in 2008, 2.3% in 2007 and 1.9% in 2006. In 2005, the category fell 0.2%. In the other bakery products segment, fresh sweet rolls, coffee cakes and donuts rose 0.5%; crackers and other cracker products fell 0.2%; and frozen and refrigerated bakery products, pies, tarts and turnovers advanced 0.7%.
The C.P.I. for Cereals and Cereal Products fell 1.9% in 2010, which compared with gains of 3.4% in 2009, 10.1% in 2008, 3.9% in 2007 and 0.3% in 2006 and 2005. It marks the first decline in the index since the B.L.S. began tracking in 1978. Flour and prepared mixes fell 3.4% after rising 2.6% in 2009 and 17.9% in 2008; breakfast cereal suffered a decline of 1.2% after gains of 2.6% in 2009 and 3.5% in 2008; and rice, pasta and corn meal fell 2.4% after rising 5.1% in 2009 and 20.6% in 2008.
On a monthly basis, the Consumer Price Index for baked foods and cereal products showed strength, finishing up 0.3% in December. The December index for Cereals and Bakery Products before seasonal adjustment was 250.6% of the 1982-84 average. For all food at home, the December index was 216.9, up 0.2% from November.
The C.P.I. for Cereals and Cereal Products in December was 217.7, up 1.5% from November. The index for products within this category included: flour and prepared mixes, 217.2, up 1% from November; breakfast cereal, 215.3, up 0.8% from the previous month; and rice, pasta and corn meal, 226.7, up 2.9% from November.
The price index for Bakery Products in December was 268.2, down 0.3% from November.
The December index for bread was 161.8, up 0.2% from November. Under this heading, the C.P.I. for white bread was 296.6, up 0.3% from November. For bread other than white, the index was 308, up 0.1% from November.
The price index for fresh biscuits, rolls and muffins in December was 157.9, down 0.2% from November. The December index for cakes, cupcakes and cookies was 254.3, down 0.2% from November. Under this segment, other price indexes included fresh cakes and cupcakes, 259.8, down 0.7% from November; and cookies, 248.8, up 0.2% from the previous month.
The C.P.I. for other bakery products in December was 239.5, down 1% from November. Under this heading, other price indexes in December included: fresh sweet rolls, coffee cakes and donuts, 252.9, down 0.5% from November; crackers and cracker products, 273.1, down 1.7% from November; and frozen and refrigerated bakery products, pies, tarts and turnovers, 251.3, up 0.1%.