Recent grocery trips continue to demonstrate how the purchasing power of the middle class is eaten away as prices remain constant while packaging changes.
My wife came home recently with a full grocery load and commented that she’d felt taken since the spaghetti that she’d bought on sale was actually now packaged in a 12 ounce box instead of the standard 16 ounce container. The grocer and producer ostensibly held the sale to camoflage the price increase; most people don’t take the time to record prices and wouldn’t catch on that such a product change had been made. The effect is that someone can look at something and swear that they’d paid less for it before, but couldn’t certify that that was indeed the case.
A similar comment was made this week as brand name mayonnaise was purchased on sale with the subsequent realization that product came in a 30 ounce jar instead of the previous 32 ounce jar. The sense now is that when we see products sold at strong sale prices, there’s a decent likelihood that the product will undergo a size decrease.
Another factor that impacts the price is the quality and availability of the component ingredients, such as the "pink slime" that’s been added for years to ground meat. With the recent controversy about the quality and safety of the meat byproduct, more grocers are announcing that they’ll no longer be including the substance in their ground beef product. The same week that Supervalu and Safeway announced that they’d no longer include the byproduct, two regional chains that service our area also announced that their ground beef wouldn’t have the filler. Note that these two chains are part of the three store price index that I’ve followed since November 2010. A month prior to the announcement, in February 2012, these two stores showed significant increases in the price of their 80% lean ground beef and the local store didn’t have the 80% lean for sale at all. The new, higher price is still in effect – duh – but the local store still doesn’t have the 80% lean on the shelf.
The upshot is that another of the factors is the value upon which we place the quality of our food. If we truly want safe food, then there’s going to be a premium that will have to be paid to ensure that the food is safe for consumption.