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Real Inflation from January 2014 to April 2015

Copyright April 7, 2015 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.


Introduction

Food prices can be increased in all three of the following ways:
  1. Price per Package: This is usually immediately noticed by the customer because the customer has to pay a higher price for the same size package that was previously available at a lower price.

  2. Size of Package: This is less noticeable by the customer unless the customer is paying very close attention to the size of the individual food packages that he or she buys. If the price per package remains the same but the package size decreases then there is less food in the package and the customer is paying a higher price for the food even though the package price is the same.

  3. Calories per Package: This is rarely noticed by the customer if the package size does not change and if the price of the package does not change. However, if the customer takes the time to multiply the number of servings in the package by the number of calories per serving then the customer will see that he or she is now receiving less nutrition per dollar even though the package size and the package price has not changed.
This article will look at several different food packages to determine if the number of calories per package has changed since January 2014.


Calories per Package

The following table shows what has happened to several different food products since 2014.

If a can of food originally contained 300 calories but the same size can now contains 150 calories then this is a 50 percent reduction in calories.
However, a 50% reduction in calories is a 100 Percent increase in price because we now have to buy two new cans to get the same number of calories as in one old can.

To convert calorie reduction into a price increase we need to use the following equation:
[ 1 / ( 1 - reduction) ] - 1

Example One: 50% (0.50) calorie reduction = [ 1 / (1 - 0.50) ] - 1 = [ 1 / (.5) ] - 1 = [ 2.00 ] - 1 = 1.00 or 100% price increase
Example Two: 20% (0.20) calorie reduction = [ 1 / (1 - 0.20) ] - 1 = [ 1 / (.8) ] - 1 = [ 1.25 ] - 1 = 0.25 or 25% price increase

In the following table the can size did not change from January 2014 to April 2015.

However, the number of calories per can did decline in many of the food items.

It is possible to maintain the same size can, and the same price per can, but still decrease the number of calories per can by putting more water and less food in the can, or by changing the mixture of the ingredients in the can and using more of the cheaper ingredients and less of the more expensive ingredients.

ProductCan Size2014 Calories2015 CaloriesPercent
Calorie Loss
Percent
Price Increase
Bumble Bee Tuna in Oil5 ounces187 Calories/Can140 Calories/Can-25.1 %33.5 %
Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast12.5 ounces360 Calories/Can270 Calories/Can-25.0 %33.3 %
Spam12 ounces1,080 Calories/Can840 Calories/Can-22.2 %28.5 %
Chef Boyardee Mini Beef Ravioli15 ounces560 Calories/Can440 Calories/Can-21.4 %27.2 %
Hereford Roast Beef12 ounces350 Calories/Can280 Calories/Can-20.0 %25.0 %
Armour Vienna Sausage4.6 ounces300 Calories/Can240 Calories/Can-20.0 %25.0 %
Green Giant Green Peas15 ounces210 Calories/Can175 Calories/Can-16.7 %20.0 %
Del Monte Traditional Spaghetti Sauce24 ounces350 Calories/Can300 Calories/Can-14.3 %16.7 %
Chef Boyardee Mac & Cheese15 ounces480 Calories/Can420 Calories/Can-12.5 %14.3 %
Campbell's Chunky Chicken & Dumplings18.8 ounces360 Calories/Can320 Calories/Can-11.1 %12.5 %
Campbell's Chunky Potato Ham Chowder18.8 ounces380 Calories/Can340 Calories/Can-10.5 %11.7 %
Chef Boyardee Lasagna15 ounces540 Calories/Can500 Calories/Can-7.4 %8.0 %
Hormel Roast Beef Hash15 ounces780 Calories/Can760 Calories/Can-2.6 %2.7 %
Double Q Pink Salmon14.75 ounces630 Calories/Can630 Calories/Can0 %0 %
Campbell's Chunky Baked Potato, Steak, & Cheese18.8 ounces400 Calories/Can420 Calories/Can+5.0 %-5.3 %

The above information clearly illustrates that the price of many foods has increased from January 2014 to April 2015.

However, the can size, the calories per can, and the price per can of some foods did not change.

It should also be mentioned that a few food items actually contain more calories in 2015 than in 2014. However, when I examined the nutrition information on the back of the can I was able to determine that this increase in the number of calories was usually achieved by increasing the amount of fat in the can while simultaneously reducing the amount of protein in the can.


Conclusion

I did not conduct an exhaustive study on this issue. I only checked a few food items to determine if the calories per can had changed.

However, based on my limited evaluation of 15 food items I suspect that most of us are now paying approximately 16 percent more for food in April of 2015 than in January of 2014 (a 15 month time period).

Another example would be Charmin Toilet Tissue. In April of 2015 a double roll of Charmin weighed 2.7 ounces but in August of 2013 a double roll of Charmin weighed 3.7 ounces. This is a 27% decrease in the amount of toilet tissue per roll, or it is a 37% increase in the price of toilet tissue over a 20 month time period.

The bottom line is that real prices are going up even though "official" statistics may be reporting stable prices or even a decrease in prices. What the "official" statistics compare is simply the price per item, such as the price per can of food or the price per roll of toilet tissue. The "official" statistics do not include the decline in the amount of calories in the can, or the amount of toilet tissue on the roll.


Email Feedback from Reader about the Above Article

The following information is being posted with the permission of its author.
The following author retains full copyright privileges to the information submitted by that author.

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Date: May 5, 2015

Regarding "Real Inflation from January 2014 to April 2015."
This is a great article.
Very few of us think of the hidden (and cleverly disguised) inflation caused by a reduction in calories and/or the food value of the contents.
I read a fair number of survival/frugality blogs and discussions regarding food cost and inflation almost always centers on just size and price.
A personal example of the Calories per Package inflation you point out:
After reading your article I dug out two cans of Chicken of the Sea chunk light tuna in oil.
One old and one new, both 5 oz. cans and 2 servings.
The old one was purchased at a great sale at Winn Dixie at 3 for $1.00
The new one was purchased recently at Winn Dixie for $.88.
The old one Best By Date is 5/20/13, the new is 3/12/17.
Old can: Calories per serving is 100, fat calories are 50.
New can: Calories per serving is 70, fat calories are 30.
Interestingly the bar code is the same for both cans.
I also checked various Chef Boyardee cans and found the kind of differences you document in the article.
But with some of the Chef Boyardee cans that I checked the bar codes for the same product are different on the old and new cans.

Email sent by: "FS"

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