Josh Sosland: Ingredient purchasing decisions remain daunting

by Josh Sosland
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Trade sources suggest ingredient buyers are seriously considering booking extensive forward coverage at or near current prices. Having fallen sharply from highs reached in 2008-09, several ingredient indexes were hovering near levels prevailing before the record-breaking run-up. For instance, the White Pan Bread Ingredient Index, as calculated by Milling & Baking News, recently closed at 156.9, down 54% from the peak.

Still, the picture for buyers wasn’t entirely rosy. The index, which is calculated based on the ingredients in a standard white bread formula, remained 30% above the average level prevailing between 2000 and 2007.

While affected by factors like the weakness of the U.S. dollar versus values earlier in the decade, wheat prices remain disappointingly high for buyers contemplating the breakneck rate at which wheat supplies have been building in the United States and globally and the near certainty that they will grow further in 2010-11.

Bakers of sweet goods face even a more difficult picture. The index for ingredients used in making cake donuts was 43% above the 2000-07 average and for devil’s food cake and shortbread cookies was higher by 64% and 66%, respectively. For buyers of sugar looking for lower prices, the wait continues.

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