Econometrica: Mar 2001, Volume 69, Issue 2

Measuring Market Power in the Ready‐to‐Eat Cereal Industry

https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0262.00194
p. 307-342

Aviv Nevo

The ready‐to‐eat cereal industry is characterized by high concentration, high price‐cost margins, large advertising‐to‐sales ratios, and numerous introductions of new products. Previous researchers have concluded that the ready‐to‐eat cereal industry is a classic example of an industry with nearly collusive pricing behavior and intense nonprice competition. This paper empirically examines this conclusion. In particular, I estimate price‐cost margins, but more importantly I am able empirically to separate these margins into three sources: (i) that which is due to product differentiation; (ii) that which is due to multi‐product firm pricing; and (iii) that due to potential price collusion. The results suggest that given the demand for different brands of cereal, the first two effects explain most of the observed price‐cost margins. I conclude that prices in the industry are consistent with noncollusive pricing behavior, despite the high price‐cost margins. Leading firms are able to maintain a portfolio of differentiated products and influence the perceived product quality. It is these two factors that lead to high price‐cost margins.

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