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Market Conduct in the U.S. Ready-to-Eat Cereal Industry

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  • Reimer Jeffrey J

    (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Abstract

Product differentiation is well established as being the key source of the cereal industrys high price-cost margins. However, there is little consensus as to whether pricing collusion is also a source of profitability, and indeed, whether price even serves as a strategic variable in this industry. This paper seeks to resolve this debate by determining whether cereal firms strategically interact on price, and if so, estimating the extent that this increases margins relative to what perfect collusion among firms could achieve. Firms are estimated to cooperate on price to the extent that margins are 2.5 percentage points higher than what is possible under a Nash-Bertrand game. This raises margins by about 43% of what could be achieved under a perfectly executed agreement to fix prices. The results are consistent with studies in the literature that characterize the industrys pricing as "approximately cooperative."

Suggested Citation

  • Reimer Jeffrey J, 2004. "Market Conduct in the U.S. Ready-to-Eat Cereal Industry," Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 1-29, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bjafio:v:2:y:2004:i:1:n:9
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John M. Connor, 1999. "Breakfast cereals: The extreme food industry," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(2), pages 247-259.
    2. Nevo, Aviv, 2001. "Measuring Market Power in the Ready-to-Eat Cereal Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(2), pages 307-342, March.
    3. Baker, Jonathan B & Baresnahan, Timothy F, 1985. "The Gains from Merger or Collusion in Product-differentiated Industries," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(4), pages 427-444, June.
    4. Richard Schmalensee, 1978. "Entry Deterrence in the Ready-to-Eat Breakfast Cereal Industry," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 305-327, Autumn.
    5. Ronald W. Cotterill & Andrew W. Franklin & Li Yu Ma, 1996. "Measuring Market Power Effects in Differentiated Product Industries: An Application to the Soft Drink Industry," Food Marketing Policy Center Research Reports 032, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    6. Everett B. Peterson & Ronald W. Cotterill, 1998. "Incorporating Flexible Demand Systems in Empirical Models of Market Power," Food Marketing Policy Center Research Reports 043, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    7. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-326, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richards, Timothy J. & Patterson, Paul M., 2006. "Firm-Level Competition in Price and Variety," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 38(03), December.
    2. Brueckner, Jan K. & Luo, Dan, 2014. "Measuring strategic firm interaction in product-quality choices: The case of airline flight frequency," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 102-115.
    3. Golub, Alla A. & Binkley, James K., 2005. "Determinants of household choice of breakfast cereals: healthy or unhealthy?," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19181, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

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