Buying in Bulk

Back to the cracker barrel

Plain generic packaging started sweeping through U.S. food chains five years ago. The result was lower prices for many standard items, ranging from bathroom tissue to light bulbs. Now some supermarkets are going generics one better: no packaging at all. They are offering foodstuffs in bulk; buyers pour from vats or scoop out from bins the amounts they want.

At supermarkets in the Midwest and Southern California, as many as 250 items can be bought in bulk, including flour sugar, mixes for cakes and breads, pie fillings, dried beans, rice, pasta and spices. Containers for the products are...

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