Food for thought - Garlic sales

Innovation, Strategy | Tony Wilson | 28 February 2013

Did you see the news headline about the alleged illegal importation of garlic into the EU?  I have no comment to make about the rights and wrongs of the case, but what struck me was the numbers.

If the news article is to be believed, the latest incident involved the alleged illegal importation of £8,000,000-worth of garlic.

Hang on, that sounds like a lot.

The article goes on to mention a previous (smaller) alleged scam over 1000 tons of garlic.  That still sounds like a lot of garlic.  Think about it.  If one bulb weighs 50gms (say), then you get 20 bulbs to a kilo, so 1000 tons is 20 million bulbs of garlic.

Reading further down the same article reveals that the world’s total output of garlic is said to be around 23 million tons, which equates to around 500 billion bulbs (each consisting of 10 or so cloves).  That’s more than 1 bulb every week for every person on the planet.

So what, I hear you ask?  Well, I don’t spend a lot of time considering agricultural or food markets, and I find this market size quite staggering.  Two things in particular strike me:

1. Some markets are quite unexpectedly enormous.  So don’t ignore possible opportunities without first quantifying them. 500 billion units is a lot of anything.

2. With enormous markets, tiny things can be very important: imagine the effect of a 1p price increase in a market of 500 billion units, for example.

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