For the most part, consumer prices have been consistently falling for the last year, but some consumer product companies are at full tilt with “greedflation” – the not-so-consumer-friendly act of using inflation as a justification to raise prices.
These companies are careful not to come off too aggressive, but rather ease them in so as not to send shockwaves across U.S. shopping aisles.
Consumer watchdog agency Accountable.Us recently issued a new analysis that found Kimblerly-Clark, Pepsi, and others admit to have benefited from increased prices as their net profits increased.
According to Accountable, Ulta saw its fiscal year 2022 net income zoomed more than 25% to $1.2 billion. Tyson execs boasted “significant pricing power of our portfolio with a year-over-year increase of 7.6%” with a net income increase from $3 billion in FY 2021 to over $3.2 billion in FY 2022.
Liz Zelnick, Accountable.Us director of economic security and corporate power, says there's no end in sight.
“Corporate greed is a stubborn thing and requires serious action from Congress," she said. "The Fed has not seen an adequate return on its investment in a policy that has already created fissures in the economy that could lead to recession. It’s just not worth it.”
The sector that gets Zelnick’s guff the most is the food industry. Her group’s study reported that company brass at General Mills confessed to "getting smart about how we look at pricing" while implementing "list price increases," and saw its net income jump 16.5% to $2.7 billion in 2022 and well into 2023.
The big grocery chains are finding a way to make inflation work for them in the consumer’s mind, too.
In GroceryDive’s coverage of Fourth of July grocery deals, it said that Aldi’s heralding of its holiday-themed price cuts claimed were nearly 30% less than the “national average” of $67.73 just so happened to be the exact amount the American Farm Bureau Federation said consumers should expect to spend on those items this year anyway.
Kroger may be guilty of double-speak, too, trying to connect the grocery store experience with July 4th in a celebratory way. When the company announced picnic items it was pushing for the holiday, it pointed out that it is “grateful to play a part in so many gatherings to help our customers honor the holiday.”
“That might be a sentiment grocers want to send to shoppers every year. But with food retailers heavily focused this year on presenting themselves as focused on value instead of as obstacles to affordability, there has perhaps never been a better time for the industry to bring that message home to grocery shoppers,” GroceryDive wrote.
How can consumers beat greedflators at their own game?
ConsumerAffairs put that question to some money-saving experts, and while no one’s going to bring down a manufacturer all by themselves, there are things they can do to keep a balanced budget until these greedflators come to their senses.
Buy cheaper substitutes: Short of a complete product boycott, Scott Lieberman of TouchdownMoney says that his go-to solution is to find a cheaper substitute from another company.
“As much as I love Oreos, now that they've raised the price so much, I've switched to the generic supermarket brand cookies that are similar,” he told ConsumerAffairs.
What retailers have the most similar-tasting, low-cost alternatives? Probably WalMart and Target, suggests the Krazy Coupon Lady. Coffee, flour, bacon – something in almost every aisle – can be found for as much as 25% off.
Young Pham, a financial advisor and investment analyst affiliated with BizReport, suggests that when you do find a good deal, do a little greed-stocking.
“After all, it is actually possible to predict short-term price movements for major items. When you stock up, you are able to cushion yourself when prices rise due to corporate greed,” he said. “But more so, you will be in a position to carefully look for alternatives to whatever it is you need before your current stocks run out.”