How Declining Cake Consumption May Reflect Economic Conditions

Cake and the economy (c) 2012 Christian Bowman.Who isn’t happier than when they have a freshly baked Iced Bun in one hand, and a piping hot coffee in the other? Well, apparently Australians according to the IbisWorld report on Bread and Cake Retailing. At this time of economic strife many of us are cutting back on luxuries, and as a result the sales of cakes have been slashed. It’s not all doom and gloom though, the economy is complex, and in some aspects it’s thriving – so don’t get rushing to you local bakery just yet, it will probably still be there tomorrow!

From 2012-13 the total industry revenue for cake and pastry sales is expected to fall by 0.6%, which in an industry valued at $1.6 billion, is a considerable decrease. This decrease reflects national and global economies that have both struggled in recent years. The link isn’t just coincidence though, as the two are intrinsically linked by a number of factors.

If we start at the beginning of the process, farmers growing wheat have been receiving a price 9.2% lower than in 2010. At the same time as wheat prices are falling, the price of sugar is also decreasing, to a level 18.7% lower than in 2011. These falls in theory mean cheaper cakes, but in reality just reflect a volatile marketplace, where manufactures are unwilling to assume their goods will sell.

Manufacturers know that in a time of worldwide recession, people in the street have less disposable income, as they focus on mounting bills, in place of buying cakes. The decrease is as a result of quite boring economic issues such as high inflation, reduced access to borrowing and low house prices.

At the same time as manufacturers struggle, customers have started to realise that a diet high in sugars and fats are probably not the healthiest. This change in social opinion means that people are less willing to go and buy cakes, instead favouring low-carb, low-fat diets. For an industry already feeling the effects of recession this shift away from traditional products couldn’t have come at a worse time.

In contrast to all the negatives, there are some big positives. The number of establishments selling cakes and pastries has continued to rise in trend with previous years as property and rent costs fall. With this rise in number of shops, comes an increase in employment with 8,862 jobs in 2012 compared to 7,612 in 2005. The shift of diets also means that bakeries are innovating to find new healthy recipes, so we can enjoy all of our favourites, but without having to feel guilty.

Sales of cakes are an unusual way to monitor the economy, but because they are so reliant on a variety of factors, they are a surprisingly good way. What is clear is that the economy is unstable, and at this time, so are sales of cakes, but the future is bright with the European economy resolving itself and in turn the global economy gaining confidence once again. Don’t get too attached to your favourite jeans, with cake sales making a comeback, they might not fit in a few months!

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    Was Steve Jobs like Genghis Khan?

    Steve Jobs, the late CEO and Co-Founder of technology giant Apple, was notoriously ruthless in his running of his business, but to his credit, he never beheaded anyone… The same can’t be said for the great Emperor of the Mongol Empire Genghis Khan. Despite having lived in totally different eras, the two share a surprising amount of similarities.

    Steve Jobs helped to instigate a technology boom that would see him Genghis Khan vs Steve Jobs Cartoonbecome one of the wealthiest, and most influential, men on the planet. Through innovation and his own personal design philosophies he helped to create a company worth over $650 billion, the highest of any company in history – even surpassing Bill Gates and Microsoft in 1999, a feat many believed to be impossible.

    Khan achieved the possibly greater accomplishment of uniting the whole of Asia, and none of it while sat behind a computer screen! To be this successful Khan had to have a range of qualities similar to that of Jobs, as both men took a small starting concept and nurtured them into the titans they became.

    The aggressive strategies and tactics can be seen mirrored in both men’s lives, and this is likely the key to their success. Being a feared leader can get you a long way, and their achievements are testament to that fact. Between 2008 and 2010 alone Apple filed over 350 patent infringement lawsuits, in 10 different countries, all part of a war against rival companies Jobs himself described as ‘thermonuclear’. A lasting legacy of Jobs’ time at Apple was the court battle with Samsung that recently resulted in a $1 billion decision in Apple’s favour.

    Khan similarly used aggressive tactics to his advantage. During his reign of terror it is estimated that roughly 40 million people lost their lives in conflicts, and this is a low estimate! Citizens of the vast Mongolian Empire lived in fear, as even a flippant insult could result in severe punishment.

    More than just hostile tactics, both men did a lot of good for the world. Jobs created Apple devices with touchscreen technology that worked so seamlessly it has come to become the industry standard. In addition he changed the music industry forever, just by inventing a product that made use of music like nothing had before. Apple creating new marketplaces was a key aspect of Jobs’ leadership, all of which are now the norm, such as portable music players built into phones, tablet devices that are larger than a phone but smaller than a laptop and perhaps the least credited but most useful the graphical interface for computers.

    It was imperative that Khan innovated in order to run an Empire as large as his effectively. Under his leadership, varying cultures and religions were combined, there was for the first time significant economic reform which saw a single currency and a standardized calendar, as well as bringing the Silk Road under one political structure, which brought stability to an otherwise volatile region.

    Jobs never killed anyone, and Khan didn’t have an iPhone, but despite their differences both men showed a similar style of leadership that allowed them to become renowned as innovators, and admired as leaders – it’s just a good job they never met!

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      Australian Swim Team on Social Media During London Olympics

      On Thursday 9, August 2012, Ex-Australian swim coach Ken Wood was reported by CNN as saying the Australian athletes are too busy socialising and getting “soft” and “They’re running their mobile phones, Twittering and Facebook and everything else…”  On Saturday, 1 day later Australian running legend Robert De Castella made similar comments to the Courier Mail about Australian athletes in general but also made comment about how there needs to be a major shift in the Australian approach.

      UPDATE: High performance manager Eric Hollingsworth suggests shutting down Twitter and Facebook

      UPDATE: Gold on Insight (SBS Australia) 18 September, 2012

      In reading these and listening to other comments during the week about how the Australian Swim Team did not live up to the expectations of the Australian public, I decided to put one element of the story to the test. Is there an obvious relationship between the frequency of use of twitter and individual swimming performance at the London 2012 Olympic Games? The best way to illustrate the data behind this is via an Infographic!

      Below is a visual representation of the data research with the following considerations:

      • Only swimmers that made finals AND have twitter accounts were analysed
      • This is an analysis of individual swimming events only and not relay team events including medleys
      • Retweets were not taken into account only actual tweets and replies
      • I’ve compared the week before and during the swimming portion of the Olympics
      • Performance was measured by personal best time of the event they made the final in
      • The “What the boys and girls are tweeting” sections are purely anecdotal and is not a deep analysis of sentiment
      Some of the highlights of this research include:
      • There were no direct or obvious correlation between the frequency of twitter and swimmers reaching or exceeding their personal best, in fact in the case of Mel Schlanger who used Twitter the most, actually exceeded her personal best time.
      • All featured swimmers who made finals and used Twitter all increased their usage during the swimming week compared to the week before
      • Most swimmers with Twitter had substantial growth in followers after the swimming events compared to the week before
      • The volume of numbers of the featured swimmers compared to the high profile swimmers like Missy Franklin of the USA were astounding, having follower growth of over 1,100% going from 23,380 followers to 345,642 followers in 8 days.
      • By far the most common conversations the featured swimmers were having around thanking followers for their support.
      • According to the data available, the iPhone was the most used device by the featured swimmers.
      This is the very first infographic that I’ve created and would love your feedback! Hopefully it will provide you with some insight into one element of the picture that is the performance and support of the Australian swim team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
      Feel free to share, print and redistribute but please remember to reference where appropriate.
      The data file that was used as a source of this Infographic can be viewed here:
      A high resolution PDF can be downloaded here:


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