Nanda Persad and her son Sebastian Khan shop for cereal at Xtra Foods in Grand Bazaar yesterday.

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Development Economist Dr Marlene Attzs believes the public may have a taste for foreign products because they may be marketed better.

Cereal may be the first meal of the day for some but according to the Government it is not part of a balanced budget. However, even as the Trade and Industry Minister announced that imported cereal accounts for around one-fifth of this country’s food import bill, it may not mean people have lost their appetite for the local flavour.

In fact, Guardian Media received the sales figures of cereal for the month of September from a popular supermarket that asked to remain anonymous.

The figures showed that of the 43,760 boxes sold for the month, 25,112 were local brands such as Sunshine Snacks and Universal Foods. That accounts for 57 per cent of cereal sales.

Guardian Media was told that this may be because the local cereals cost less than the imported ones. So why is the import bill so high? Dr Attzs said it simply costs more to bring in and people are still attracted to it because of the companies’ advertising methods.

“You have children sometimes who consume these cereals who might be looking at television channels that are geared towards them and those channels advertise Tony the Tiger, Fruit Loops, Rice Crispies with snap, crackle and pop and that drives consumer demand so children may then say they will eat these cereals because the subliminal messaging from the TV advertisements drive them to it.”

The supermarket’s data showed that Kellogg’s cereals which is imported by Hand Arnold Trinidad Limited is a big seller especially its children line of products such as Fruit Loops.

Meanwhile, its Special K line of cereals is also a popular product. And AS Bryden & Sons, the importer for Post cereal says the Honey Bunches of Oats makes up 40 per cent of its portfolio with Raisin Bran and Bran Flakes rounding off its top three.

And Dr Attzs said despite what our research showed, although less foreign cereal was bought from that Supermarket for the month of September, the import bill is still high because those cereals cost more.

“The billion dollars in cereal imports can simply be explained by the volume of cereal imported at a higher price, it could be a smaller percentage of cereal being imported at a significantly higher price.”

GML’s social media pages also captured the reaction of the online public to the billion-dollar import bill for cereal.

One poster said “Cause Trinidad produces cardboard substitutes, for what attempts to pass as corn flakes…,” another Facebook user said, “I don’t have a problem buying local. But local doesn’t have the high-quality controls,” and one questioned why the Government was meddling with their choice in groceries, “Most imported cereals are healthy, them (Government) alone must eat healthy?”