Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD and CATHERINE RAMPELL
(New York Times)
Chips are disappearing from bags, candy from boxes and vegetables from can. As an expected increase in the cost of raw materials looms for late summer, consumers are beginning to encounter shrinking food packages.
With unemployment still high, companies in recent months have tried to camouflage price increases by selling their products in tiny and tinier packages. So far, the changes are most visible at the grocery store, where shoppers are paying the same amount, but getting less.
Mama’s Note: This rather light hearted article from early 2011 was very hard to find, so there evidently wasn’t much written about this phenomenon at the time. I couldn’t find anything newer either.
Remember six ounce cans of tuna? One pound cans of coffee? Even most canned vegetables used to be in sixteen ounce cans. I can’t even remember when they shrank to fifteen ounces, but it was long ago. Now some of them hold as little as eleven ounces.
The last time you bought macaroni, crackers, or other staples, did you look at the amount in the package, or just the price? The manufacturers are really hoping that the price is all you will notice. Of course, Stephanie and Catherine above are truly naive about the price. It certainly has not remained the same.
So, what’s happening? Are those big, mean old manufacturers just being thieves? Don’t they care that five ounces of tuna won’t produce the same two nice sandwiches as six ounces did? Did you ever use a can of something in a recipe and find it just didn’t work out the way it used to? Look at the label. Who’s fault is that?
There are a lot of things going on here, and I’d have to say that manufacturer’s “greed” is very low on the list, if present at all. They are struggling to stay in business and solvent, for the most part, just like everyone else. They need to make a profit to do that, just as you need to bring home a paycheck and spend it wisely.
So, what are, at least, some of the factors involved here?
Taxes and regulations. The direct costs of these two items is somewhere around 50% of the combined productivity of everyone who is working or producing something. The additional costs imposed by the efforts of individuals and businesses to comply, and especially to AVOID the crippling, often contradictory regulations, is staggering though difficult to measure. Nobody answers that sort of survey willingly.
And, of course, social engineering is a big part of the reason for the taxes and regulations anyway. They are the bludgeons used to control our lives and property without actually holding a gun to our head… at least very often. Of course, the guns are coming out more and more often now that at least some people seem to be figuring out what is going on. The “war on drugs” and the “war on raw milk” are only two of the many thousands of possible examples.
So, what does that have to do with the size of the tuna can? Everything, and more.
The manufacturers pay billions to satisfy government demands for taxes and regulations. The cost of complying with those, both related to the product itself and the employees who produce it, is staggering. And, of course, this applies equally to those who supply the raw materials to make the products, as well as the entire system of packaging and transport.
But, of course, the only way they can pay those taxes and foot the cost of those regulations is to charge their customers more for the product! And, just as you work hard to take every possible deduction and avoid going to jail by getting all the demanded “licenses,” inspections, ad nausea… they must hire lawyers and clerks to do the same thing. Of course they also hire lobbyists and give campaign donations to politicians, all in an effort to find the most favorable climate to continue in business. And yes, the whole rotten system gives them every incentive to lie, cheat and manipulate others whenever they have the opportunity. A lot of ordinary people find themselves in the same bind.
Then there is the serious problem with the shrinking fiat dollar and the insanity of a whole economy based on debt, both of which are far beyond the scope of this article or my expertise. I’d suggest you do some serious reading here, if you would like to understand more about that part of it.
It’s just too darn easy to blame the farmers, manufacturers and business in general, however seriously they’ve been compromised by all this. Next time you notice your groceries shrinking, take a good look at the people in politics (and their minions) who will do anything they think necessary to control you, perfectly willing and able to put you in a cage or KILL you if you don’t obey. They produce absolutely nothing except force, theft and lies.
The smaller size can and the reduced volume of the product is just one small way the manufacturers use to keep going, hoping nobody will notice much. Unfortunately, just as with the fiat money and the debt, it simply can’t go on forever.
And why in the world would we want it to go on?
It’s true. The brand of corn chips I use has shrunk from 16 oz to 11 oz in gradual steps. Even more deceptive is the way pills are marketed: a huge bottle (sometimes encased in an even larger box) with a small layer of pills on the bottom.
What this practice tells me is that many consumers fall for the tricks. When buyers as a group get better at seeing through the deceptions, marketers will change their practices, I think.
You seem to have missed the whole point of the article, JdL. A truly free market is the only lasting answer to any of the problems, and the longer it takes for people to realize that, the more our groceries will shrink. If things continue as they are, we may one day be grateful on our knees to get that five ounces of tuna.