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While the Rich Get Richer, the Rest of Us Pay More for Less at the Supermarket

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page, Appetite for a Change page, and our Health Issues page.


>The New York Times reports that food companies are embarked on a "stealth" strategy to hike prices by significantly shrinking packages without changing the price. For example, canned vegetables are down to thirteen from sixteen ounces (one shopper observed that she found an eleven ounce can of corn recently). Sugar is now sometimes sold in four pound bags instead of five.

This is nothing new -- food companies have repeatedly responded to weak economies and rising commodity prices in this way -- although this is perhaps the first time that some companies are greenwashing their shrinkage. Proctor & Gamble, for one, is trumpeting its new smaller packages (priced about the same as the old, of course) as "'Future Friendly' products, which it promotes as using at least 15 percent less energy, water or packaging than the standard ones."

And don't forget the health claims! Fewer crackers in a package means fewer calories -- you may pay more per cracker, but it's better for you!

While it's easy to shake our heads and decry the lousy economy and rising (possibly soon spiking) food prices -- as well as the climate effects that may make such increases permanent rather than cyclical, I'm having trouble reconciling all this with another salient fact:

The economy is actually doing great. Gangbusters, in fact. Just not for any of us. Annie Lowery in Slate observes:

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real corporate profits neared an all-time high in the last three months of 2010, with companies raking in an annualized $1.68 trillion in pre-tax operating profits.