When you break it down, what is the effect of severe winter weather on fresh produce demand?

There is no way to absolutely quantify it, but Steve Lutz and I were visiting about this the other day.

On one hand, a winter storm bearing down on a Midwest town inevitably spurs a stock up trip t the supermarket.  On the other, frigid cold and snow hip high snow drifts cause consumers to go to the store less often, creating fewer opportunities for impulse buys of fresh produce.

Cold weather favorites like stew, chili and roast beef have extra appeal. The average mom may be more likely to put a frozen pizza in the oven than to brave the elements to make a run for salad ingredients.

Where is home delivery when we need it?

Cold weather seems to be gripping the world right now, and the story line of how severe weather crimps demand has popped up across the seas.

In Africa, Kenya exporters told Africa Business Daily on Dec. 31 that severe winter weather in Europe stymied orders. With the worst winter weather in five years in Europe, exports of flowers, fruits and vegetables were hindered by lower consumer demand and transportation problems from airports to inland locations.

One study that actually looked at the effect of cold weather “shocks” on consumer purchases of food. The 2002 study, found here ,  from the Stanford Medical School called “Heat or Eat? Cold-Weather Shocks and Nutrition in Poor American Families” reported that both poor and richer families increase spending on heating costs in cold weather.  The report said poor families cut food spending by about the same amount as their increased fuel expenditures.

Check out this 2004 study for another run at the “heat or eat” debate.

Another study on the same subject is being compiled in the U.K. and the link to that report is found here.