Hey! Who cut (off with) the cheese?
That’s what food retailers all across the world have been asking, according to a new report by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), which finds that cheese is the most stolen food internationally. The report studies the problem of “shrinkage,” quite possibly the best euphemism ever. Shrinkage refers to the phenomenon whereby inventories shrink for unknown reasons — almost always shoplifting and employee theft or occasionally having to do with stocking errors. In other words, CRR is looking at which foods are the most stolen in the world.
As I said earlier, cheese is by far the most stolen food, with 3.09% of all cheese stocks ending up shrunken. Trailing behind that are fresh and cooked premium meats, candy and alcohol. This makes a lot of sense: most of these items are in relatively small packages, or very valuable by weight. One odd item that seems incongruous within the data is that infant formula shows high rates of shoplifting in North America (3% of the inventory shrinks), despite heavy subsidies in the US to provide free formula to mothers. Either there is still strong demand among American middle class mothers for formula, or Mexico and Canada have exceedingly high rates of shoplifted formula.
One of the most important notes in the report, though, documents the rise in shoplifting and food theft over the course of the past year, leading to a 6.6% rise in shrinkage. This should come as no surprise. With the collapsing global economy, many families have had to turn to shoplifting to get enough food for the family. That could help explain why cheese of all things is the most often stolen food. Indeed, cheese is rich in protein and calcium, which suggests that shoplifting is done not just by teenagers looking for a sugar high, but by health conscious people looking for nutritious food to supplement into their diets.
Photo credit: Simon Shek's Flickr stream.