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    High Food Costs Won't Douse 4th of July: Nielsen

    Sales of cook-out staples such as buns, chips, hot dogs, and cheese, should soar in in advance of the holiday, said the market data firm.

    Rising food costs and economic woes won't put a damper on holiday cook-out plans this 4th of July, predicted The Nielsen Co.

    The research firm said consumers will purchase more than 110 million pounds, or $215 million, worth of hot dogs during the four-week period surrounding the holiday, which constitutes the single biggest hot dog sales day of the entire year.

    Nielsen also predicted consumers would purchase more than 25 million pounds, or $117 million, of fresh ground beef; and more than 32 million pounds/$71 million of frozen ground beef; also analysts expect bratwurst and knockwurst sales will likely exceed $51 million.

    "Rising food prices are not going to keep consumers from enjoying traditional, festive summer cook-outs," said Tom Pirovano, The Nielsen Co.'s director of industry insights. "There's no doubt it's going to cost them more, but they are still going to have their favorites."

    Carbonated beverage sales are also expected to flow, reaching a whopping $1.5 billion, or more than 240 million cases. Beer is also hot for the summer months, and never more so than for the July 4th holiday, during which more than 23 million cases are expected to be sold in supermarkets alone.

    Baked goods have experienced the greatest price increases of all cook-out fare examined by Nielsen, and consumers should shell out 19.5 percent more for fresh bakery buns this year than they did at this time last year.

    Potato chip prices are up 18.8 percent, followed by processed American cheese slices, up 12.4 percent. Interestingly, the cost of fresh ground beef actually fell 0.6 percent, making it one of the few bargains of the season, Nielsen said.

    "Higher grain prices are resulting in higher prices for breads and buns," said Pirovano. "Consumer demand for healthier items such as whole-wheat bread and buns will likely drive up the cost of a picnic or barbeque even more. Healthy eating remains a priority for many shoppers despite the economic downturn."

    Nielsen's analysis of supermarket sales in 52 U.S. markets shows that cold weather cities tend to purchase more hamburger, hot dogs, and bratwurst during the four-week period surrounding Independence Day than consumers in other markets.

    Perhaps seeking to put frigid winter temperatures behind them, Minneapolis shoppers buy 367 percent more fresh ground beef than would be expected for a market of its size. When it comes to hot dogs, Syracuse comes out on top, buying 90 percent more; while Milwaukee consumers buy far more bratwurst and knockwurst than anyone else in the country - a whopping 525 percent more than would be expected for a market of its size, Nielsen said.

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