Project: National Food Price and Sales Information System
Award Year: 2000
Amount of award, fiscal 1998: $235,000.00 fiscal 2000: $82,000.00 fiscal 1999: $6,000.00
Institution: Food and Drug Administration
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This project's objectives are to:
  • obtain the most recent nationally reliable data on average food prices, quantities, comparables, dollar sales, promotion information at the product group, class, brand, and item levels, including data on vitamins and nutritional supplements; and
  • obtain historical time-series data to estimate food purchases for home consumption.

The Economic Research Service (ERS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly purchase data from Information Resources Incorporated (IRI) on food sales at retail stores around the country. The data result from obtaining computerized data encoded in the bar codes and nutrition labels contain grocery store sales and physical volume of scanable food products (at present, the data does not include random weight items, i.e., cut meats and produce). ERS partnered with the FDA to develop a request for proposal from interested vendors to furnish data on nationally representative food prices and quantities from supermarkets. The FDA contracted with IRI for the data and information system. Previous data from A.C. Nielsen included price and quantity detail on about 500,000 supermarket food items for the period 1988 through 1996. These data gave a unique detailed picture of retail food purchases. Actual purchase data from IRI for 1993 through 1998 allowed ERS to avoid respondent bias so prevalent in other food consumption surveys. These data were essential to update the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for food stamp allotments, to evaluate alternative food assistance programs, and to estimate the costs of healthier diets.

The primary uses of the data are to report volume and sales series for selected grocery store items to supplement the disappearance data series, provide per unit retail price data to supplement the shrinking Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) retail price series, provide analysis on the availability of healthy diets and their costs, monitor the nutrient content of the national food supply, and components to a cost index for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Scanner data can be analyzed monthly, quarterly, or annually. The data contain product characteristics, and also allow analysts to examine a wide range of items based on such qualities as flavor, container type, size, and manufacturer. Interagency agreements were entered into in fiscal 1999 and fiscal 1998 with the Food and Drug Administration, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The initial product delivery was received September 1998. The cost was $235,000 in fiscal 1998 (augmented by $6,000 in fiscal 1999 to obtain information on which items received various types of local promotional treatments) and $82,000 in fiscal 2000. In fiscal 2001, a data purchase of $72,700 was made for data from a household food purchases survey.

Topic: Data Collection and Methodology, Food Prices and Demand
Dataset: AC Nielsen Data