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What's up with the price of spice?


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16 replies to this topic

#1 of 17 ONLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted August 22 2006 - 02:58 PM

I've always been mystified by the sky high prices charged for spices in the supermarket when you can buy bulk spices at the local co-op/health food store or large containers at the warehouse club for ridiculously low prices.

This past weekend, I was at Costco and picked up a 7 oz. container of McCormick "Saigon Cinnamon" for $3.49. That's a heck of a lot of cinnamon for a casual baker, but you can't beat the price...

...especially when I'm in the supermarket today and discover that the dinky little 2 oz. jars in there are selling for $4.29!! Posted Image Same brand: McCormick; same product: "Saigon Cinnamon"; but the 2 oz. container costs 80 cents MORE than my super-size 7 oz. container.

Many other spices also follow this huge mark-up in the supermarket. For some reason a tiny little bit of sweet paprika is about $4 in the supermarket, but I can get a whole 18 oz. jug of it for about $6 at the warehouse club.

I just don't understand how the supermarkets get away with charging so much when other retailers can sell much larger amounts of the same product for a fraction of the unit price.

I think I've found a new way to make money...buy spices in bulk at the warehouse and resell for massive profit. Posted Image
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#2 of 17 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted August 22 2006 - 03:47 PM

Or at Indian markets... Sometimes the ground stuff is more perishable-- and converting Cardamom seed pods to powder is easier said than done. I probably should scout out a good source for bulk Sesame seeds-- one of my recipes ends up using half a bottle.

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted August 22 2006 - 11:47 PM

Picking up on Jeremy’s point, I avoid buying ground spices in quantity, as the quality of most ground spices goes down rapidly. Actually I avoid ground spices when possible. As an example, buying whole nutmegs and using a small hand grater when you need to add a bit of ground nutmeg produces a splendid result. As to your point on prices, marketing typically accounts for pricing on items of this kind. Spices are not the only thing that can be bought in bulk at places like Costco more cheaply than at the local supermarket.
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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted August 23 2006 - 12:42 AM

I buy my spices at either some of the Spanish stores in Harlem (killer prices and black pepper that's simply lethal) and in the Indian grocery stores in Manhattan. Outstanding selections, prices, and freshness.

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Michael Warner

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Posted August 23 2006 - 11:52 AM

I use a lot of sesame seeds in my cooking and the small bottles at the grocery store go for almost 7 bucks. Instead, I buy them in bulk at the local Chinese grocery and I can't imagine what size container I would need to haul away 7 dollars worth!
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#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted August 23 2006 - 10:55 PM

It's something, isn't it? For flavorings like almond, coffee, walnut, orange, lemon, and so forth, I've abandoned the little bottles and instead go to the liquor store and pick up something inexpensive.

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted August 23 2006 - 11:32 PM

Family Dollar. Two for a dollar. Posted Image

I'm always on the look out for a good pre-mixed pizza spice. I found a pizza spice grinder from McCormick at the Dollar Tree. Quite lovely! Posted Image
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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted August 24 2006 - 03:45 AM

Why are spices so expensive in 'ordinary' supermarkets? Because most consumers need v. little (e.g. unless you're a reasonably adventurous cook, how often will you need nutmeg?) and so don't bother to work out the cost per unit weight. Plus, the actual cost is still so low that people don't feel it's worth their while to shop around. If you think the mark-up on spices is bad, try working out the cost of popcorn. It has a higher mark-up than cocaine.

#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 24 2006 - 04:17 AM


I use fresh nutmeg ever time I cook dark greens (collard, mustard, broccoli rabe). Not much, but it does do something nice to the flavor. Then again, fresh whole nutmeg lasts forever, ground lasts about 1.2 minutes and then tastes like sawdust. Plus, whole nutmeg lets you use that little grater you bought and gadgets are always good.Posted Image

#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted August 24 2006 - 04:56 AM

If people weren't buying those overpriced spices they'd be cheaper at the grocery stores. I'd never pay more than a dollar for a container of spices. Only fresh stuff would I go higher. The cheaper ones are the best.

I used to buy this spice called SOUL SEASONING. It was much different from the others with the same flavor label sold at WalMart and other places (seems like the brand name was Encore and it looked like cheap crap). I can't find it anywhere since the store that sold it closed down. But it did magic with chicken and pork chops. Posted Image I use another 50 cent spice called STEAK. Posted Image Man, any kind of beef item is flavor enhanced with that stuff. Hamburger patty + STEAK spice = heaven on a bun.

When money gets better I'd like to try more fresh spices. But those cheapies can often surprise you.
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#11 of 17 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted August 24 2006 - 05:47 AM

I use, on a fairly frequent basis, cardamom (whole and ground), cloves, cinnamon, bay, fresh ginger, coriander, nutmeg, garam massala, and peppers. My spice bills would be enormous if I only relied on prepackaged, jarred spice.

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Kevin Hewell

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Posted August 24 2006 - 06:30 AM

Most of those spice mixes contain a lot of MSG which I can't stand. I would much rather mix my own. I even like making my own curry powder.

#13 of 17 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted August 24 2006 - 09:45 AM

To exapand on this, I'm not positive, but I always thought that supermarkets make their money by lowering prices on the 'everyday' items (where they barely make a profit), then they raise the prices on 'non-everyday' items to offset the cost. It's similar to what McDonald's did when they lowered the price of their burgers (and advertised the hell out of that fact), but then increased the price of the fries (without mentioning a thing). They figured that most people get fries with their burgers, so once they get you in with the lower price of the burgers, they make up the cost on the fries.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 24 2006 - 09:57 AM

Not only do they "make their money by lowering prices on the 'everyday' items (where they barely make a profit)", they actually lose money on certain popular items in order to get you in the store and more importantly, change store chain loyalty. Things like Coca-Cola, chicken breast, deli meats, certain seasonal produce, ice cream and practically anything on an end display is a "loss leader", offered at below cost to get you in the store once and hopefully get you to change your loyalty to that chain of stores. PS - I worked in the supermarket business for 9 years and this is the least of what they do. Ask about "prime shelf space" if you really want to hear how convoluted it is.

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Joe Szott

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Posted August 24 2006 - 10:39 AM

Luckily, you usually don't have to blow the manager at the supermarket to hook you up with a bag of p-corn. I'm Orville Reddenbaucher bitch!

#16 of 17 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted August 24 2006 - 11:10 AM

Really, you don't???? Damn, I'm going to have a little chat with my grocery. Posted Image

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted August 24 2006 - 11:38 PM

And you know you're in the gutter when you repop leftover kernals. Strung out on Jiffy Pop.
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