Food Makers Want To Sell You Cheap Food For Big Profits

Gone are the days of pushing “premium” food offerings, says the Wall Street Journal– big food manufacturers like Kraft and Campbell are going to be pushing “cheap” foods like tomato soup and cheese singles — foods which are thought of as “easy on the wallet” but are still hugely profitable for the manufacturers.

From the WSJ:

But lower-priced “value” products can also have wide margins because they’re cheaper to make. “Food companies will be careful to shift consumers to products that are still high margin,” says Robert Moskow, an analyst with Credit Suisse. “Powdered Kool-Aid beverages are one of the most profitable food products in history.”

Also Monday, the milk industry will begin running ads touting milk as a bargain. Financial guru Suze Orman will don the familiar milk mustache in a print ad that reads: “Even at today’s prices, a glass of milk only costs about a quarter….” The ad is a big departure from prior “Got Milk” campaigns that focused on the nutritional value of milk.

The milk industry plans to spend just under $1 million on the Suze Orman ads.

The WSJ says the new campaigns indicative of a food industry that’s afraid of consumers. Shoppers have been pinched by a 7.5% jump in food prices in the first 8 months of 2008, and have started buying generics. Oh, no!

If you’re a member of the PTA, you can expect ConAgra to start giving you the hard sell on their cheap Banquet frozen dinners — they’ve hired “hundreds of mothers to provide money-saving tips and free product samples at PTA meetings and church groups across the country. The moms will be paid in Banquet product coupons, the company said.”

Campbell will begin calling their soups, “the original dollar menu,” stressing that you just have to add water, and Kool-Aid’s new claims the product provides “more smiles per gallon” compared to soft drinks.

Food Marketers Cook Up ‘Value’ Campaigns [WSJ]
(Photo: What Rhymes With Nicole )

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  1. Gopher bond says:

    I love my local farm CSAs more and more.

  2. crazyasianman says:

    and it’s lovely how much of the cheap “food” doesn’t seem to have much actual or nutritional food ingredients in it. ::glares menacingly at Kraft::

  3. DrGirlfriend says:

    Everything old is new again, I guess

    Also: “The moms will be paid in Banquet product coupons, the company said.” – That is so sad. Really, to be cool with working for Banquet coupons.

  4. snoop-blog says:

    Mmmm, grilled cheese and tomato soup. Perfect winter combo.

  5. Illusio26 says:

    I tried a couple of the banquet TV dinners once. They were pretty disgusting.

  6. forgottenpassword says:

    I dont know about the rest of you, but growing up… cheese singles were considered “rich-people food”. We had velveeta cheese in the big large brick form.

  7. humphrmi says:

    I’d love to see ConAgra at my district’s PTA meeting… telling a bunch of Jewish mothers how great their treif food is…

  8. Murph1908 says:

    I’ll be so happy when the “Got Milk” ads are gone.

    Will they please, please take the million stupid knock-off slogans with it? Worst I ever saw was flashed before me every 4 minutes while in a cinema waiting for a movie to begin…”Got Realtor?” Ugh. Can’t get that stupid image of the woman in the milk mustache with her stupid grin out of my head.

    Thankfully, I don’t remember the agency that did the ad, so it didn’t work.

    • yasth says:

      @Murph1908: They will keep the slogan just change the focus, at least in the medium term.

      The recognition rate for Got Milk is so high as to be ludicrous.

    • trujunglist says:

      @Murph1908: @alysbrangwin:

      You know what also kicks ass? Lima beans cooked in the southern style! It ends up costing almost nothing, and you get to eat some bacon (because you should use some bacon fat to give it flavor) while you’re at it. Mmmm, so good, and the cost can’t really be beat. I’ll have to check into those other ones.. maybe make a nice lentil soup or something?

  9. cerbie says:

    Would an education campaign help? The last time I used tomato soup that I didn’t make from in-season (thus cheap-and-also-good) tomatos was when I thought I had tomato sauce, but didn’t, and needed to finish up some jambalya.

    And, I primarily stopped getting the basic Campbell’s soups because of the price being too high. I lived on the stuff, adding ingredients to make a real soup or thick rice dish, until it crept above half a dollar when on sale.

    Now I have some vegetable soup to go home to, with packaged broth (I admit some laziness, OK?), and otherwise fresh or dried ingredients. It looks nasty, but tastes divine, and took very little work to make.

  10. Maglet says:

    Cambell’s soup isn’t easy on the wallet–who are they kidding? Especially, when I would need to buy more than one at a time.

    I’ll make my own soups–cheaper and better for me. Have you see the sodium content in some of Campbell’s soup?! Holy…

  11. mbz32190 says:

    Sorry Campbell’s…if I need a basic tomato soup, i’ll still buy the store brand (since you probably made it anyhow).

  12. [casaubonsbook.blogspot.com]

    Eat cheap, and eat Better than ever. Grains are so freakin yummy, yum yum yum. It’s the only good thing about Whole Foods, err, Whole Paycheck, their bulk food bins.

    • alysbrangwin says:

      @TheUpMyAssPlayers: I love the bulk wall. I’ve bought popcorn, garbanzos, pinto beans, cereal, just about everything dry from the bulk wall. I’ve also bought lentils from the farmer’s market and they’re delicious. It’s not like they’re hard to cook either. I could live on garbanzo beans too, and they are so cheap in bulk!

  13. GiselleBeardchen says:

    Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Sausage Gumbo -with a little Tobasco and garnished with shredded cheese. $1.50 at Wally world. Heaven in a can! Cheapest large lunch or light dinner on the planet.

  14. eddytompkins says:

    Hmm… I think several of the Select Harvest types aren’t too bad on price, nutrition, and quality of ingredients, and that several of the Chuny soups rank very high on the camp/nostalgia vector (e.g., the “mini burgers” with freakin’ grill marks in “Sirloin Burger with Country Vegetable”). And the cream of this or that is indispensible for making “comfort food”/not at all classy chicken dishes…

    Too much salt, yeah, so drink some water to flush it, and I guess the plain-old tomato variety isn’t exactly a bargain. I’d go for the generic on something like that.

    But generally Campbell’s soups are of a decent quality (compare to the nastiness of various vegetables and meats in Progresso – some of them are way too squishy and some of them are way too jerky-y) and some of them are in some way fun. That “Fully Loaded” line, though? That’s nasty and I’m sure it won’t last long.

  15. I dunno, me and my BF had a Fantastic 5 dollar dinner two nights ago. I bought:

    2 fresh salmon steaks (farm raised) for 7.16
    2 yams: 1.11
    One large broccoli crown: 1.50
    Some garlic cloves from a bulk container (1/20th of 7 bucks): 30 cents
    Mrs. Dash (1/15th @ 3 bucks a bottle): 45 cents

    Total: 10.52

    Dinner was awesome, and it cost 5.25 each. Do I eat like that every day? No, but close to it.

    Splurging doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

  16. Marshfield says:

    Maglet, you wrote: Cambell’s soup isn’t easy on the wallet–who are they kidding?

    I totally agree. I am shocked to pay a whole dollar for a can of tomato soup. It should be more like 69 cents. And cream of mushroom is even more.

    • Zulujines says:

      @Marshfield: Yeah, I think Cream of Mushroom is like $1.25…considering you need to add milk (you can add water, but who wants watery cream soup?) it really isn’t that much of a bargain.

      I’m not impressed, Campbell’s. And the Kraft individual cheese slices taste like wax. No thank you.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Zulujines:
        That’s because there’s hardly, if any, milk in them anymore. Several years ago, they changed the formula. Remember those commercials where they were touting “milk in every slice!”?

        There’s a Kraft factory here in this city and a former coworker’s husband worked there. He tipped us off right before they changed it.

        I still like the Deluxe slices, although I get the Aldi’s brand.

  17. StyckyWycket says:

    The milk industry plans to spend just under $1 million on the Suze Orman ads.

    And this is part of my problem with the Suze Ormans of the world: they have made their names as people who are supposed to be teaching people about how to use their money intelligently, and yet, they are helping to tout morketing campaigns that capitalize on fiscal ignorance (be it willful, or unintended).

  18. csyria says:

    *checks the address and the banner displayed at the top of the page once more…*

    Yup, this is still The Consumerist. Kinda sad that, “The original dollar menu,” and ” [...] The moms will be paid in Banquet product coupons, the company said.” almost made me think I had wandered over to The Onion.

  19. dynamix10 says:

    I make about 5 gallons of chicken veggie soup at a time, freeze it. Guess what? No added salt is needed! I don’t even add the carb infested noodles. It about 30 cents for each big bowl. Yes, lunch for 30 cents! I make 6 gallons of chili at a time, cost for 5 meats and 30 other ingredients – not sure, you do the math, but I know its aweseome! People , stop buying that crap

    • picardia says:

      @dynamix10: I do the same, and will be doing it even more in future. It is better for you, cheaper (or at least no more expensive), and tastier. I think cooking is about to make a big, big comeback, and not just for the foodies.

    • TVarmy says:

      @dynamix10: Zulujines: Get a stockpot. That will hold many gallons. If you can afford it, get one with a good heavy bottom for browning meats and veggies. Otherwise, you can just use a skillet to take care of that part. Stock pots are like any other piece of cookware, you can pay anything for them. You can get a cheap, perfectly good one from a restaurant supply store, or, if there aren’t in your area, try Acemart.com.

      Most soup recipes scale up pretty well, and they’re pretty open to modifications as well. If you want a certain vegetable or don’t like something in the recipe, you can probably change it. Times should be about the same, just try to brown meats in batches to prevent crowding.

      • Zulujines says:

        @TVarmy: Thank you. I was hoping for a serious reply. I’m just starting to cook and soup is one of my favorite things to make. I never thought of making a huge pot and freezing it, but I really like the idea. Thanks for the tips!

  20. RandaPanda says:

    Off brands people. Aldi’s and such. Cheaper price, just as good on quality.

    My comparison is as follows:

    Campbells Tomato: nearly $1.00 per 12oz. can
    Off Brand at Wal-Hell (The only grocery store in my area): $0.75
    Off-Off brand at Aldi’s: $0.50

    And they’ve got LOTS of different varieties for sale. Usually I stock up on Tomato, Cream of Mushroom, Celery, Chicken and use them in tons of different things.

    Bargain shop, people. Make your dollar stretch more.

    • econobiker says:

      @RandaPanda0283: Aldi’s rocks for good off-brand stuff. Their saltine crackers (often eaten with soup) are the best for the price as most other store brands usually can’t even get close in texture and taste to Premium Brand saltines.

    • Luckie says:

      @RandaPanda0283: I’d agree for most things that Aldi’s is just as good on quality, except for their canned green beans. Old, tough, with stems still attached. Wouldn’t buy those again.

      But everything else is really good. I love their canned chicken for quick sandwiches and salads.

      • RandaPanda says:

        @Luckie:
        Oh, I know, it’s great isn’t it? Just don’t feed the leftovers (what you can’t get scraped out of the can) to the cat…that’s not pretty. LoL

    • johnnya2 says:

      @RandaPanda0283: The nearest Aldis is a 32 mile round trip. This adds at least a gallon of gas to going there, plus wear and tear on my car, and my tim. Not the great deal anymore.

  21. Gopher bond says:

    I like those bags of bean for 15 bean soup. I’ll make a ham, then throw the leftovers in a pot, add two bags of beans and some water and voila, a huge pot o soup.

  22. Maglet says:

    I WISH there was an Aldi’s around here! But, alas… there isn’t.

    Who said drink more water to flush all the sodium? That’s not a good counter… my high blood pressure can tell, even with copious amounts of water. Paying $3 for one can of soup (I like the different varieties, not just plain chicken noodle or tomoato) is out of our budget. Even if I didn’t have our family to feed, I’d still have a fundamental problem with a WEE can of soup being more than a buck!

    @testicles, I make a big pot of soup like that. It freezes really well, too. I love fall and my crockpot. HAHA!

    • Gopher bond says:

      @Maglet: Oh yeah, I freeze it too. I love treating soup in the way it was originally intended, that is, as a way to make leftovers more appealing. Whenever there is leftovers, I take the unappealing leftovers, boil the crap out of them, add in the eatable leftovers plus whatever I have laying around and see what happens. I’d say 90% of the time I get something much better than any storebought soup. Sometimes I get a real stinker, but hey. It’s fun.

  23. Corporate_guy says:

    I don’t buy soup because it is over priced. 1 dollar for a can of soup? Craziness. Canned pastas like ravioli and spagettios are like 55 cents.

  24. Aisley says:

    “Financial guru Suze Orman will don the familiar milk mustache in a print ad that reads: “Even at today’s prices, a glass of milk only costs about a quarter….”

    And immediately after that, she’ll talk about your FICO score. Of course that she’s paid by Fair Isaac, F.I.C.O., has anything to do with is.

    The milk industry plans to spend just under $1 million on the Suze Orman ads.

  25. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    “Campbell will begin calling their soups, “the original dollar menu” ” ?!?!

    um… local to me –
    [farm4.static.flickr.com]

    [and it costs 60 cents MORE for the low sodium versions! of course when there is less of something, the item should cost more!]

  26. bohemian says:

    Diet related health problems and obesity in the US are at record highs. So the solution is to push nutritionally lacking, high in all that is bad for you high margin crap food? Just another reason to hate corporate America.

    We have been buying less and less processed food in order to save money. Actual food is cheaper but requires preparation.

  27. johnnya2 says:

    I really had no idea what Campbells soups cost, and after reading this thought jeez seems might expensive. Then I got a supermarket flyer today. Retail price 6 cans for $3 which comes to 50 cents a can. I also noticed a nice 50 cent coupon in my Sunday circular for 50 cents off if I bought at least 5 canes. My supermarket doubles coupons, so IF I were to buy 6 cans and get the dollar coupon off, it would be a net cost of $2 for 6 cans. This is 33 cents a can. Plus I dont have to spend time prepping and making homemade soup. I value my time, and unless you add that inte the cost, you do not have a true cost of that homemadesoup. If you base 5 gallons at taking 1 hourto cook, slice, chop,dice and freeze, and you pay yourself $10 PER HOUR, IS THE SAVINGS ALL YOU THINK IT IS?

    • Gopher bond says:

      @johnnya2: I don’t think making soup is all as complicated as you say it is. I literally dump appropriate leftovers in a pot at appropriate times and let it simmer all day. Voila, soup. You don’t even have to watch it. My schedule is thankfully not too tight that I need to rely on canned soup.

      If you need a recipe, then, in my opinion, you’ve missed the point of making soups and stews. I do it in between playing PS3.

      But if I didn’t think it was fun and interesting, I’d probably just buy the canned soup.

  28. artki says:

    I heard on TV that of the 500 stocks in the SP500 index there was only one that went up in price today. Yeah, Campbells.

  29. MadTheologian says:

    I wondered whether Mr Moskow ever drank Kool-Aid as a kid…and whether he had kept a pitcher in his office fridge full of the stuff. I know I did.

    You know what’s my favorite flavor? It’s “red”. That’s right, red. Red Kool-Aid is about the same, no matter the flavor variations.

  30. mike says:

    Kool-Aid’s new claims the product provides “more smiles per gallon” compared to soft drinks.

    Is there a conversion chart for smiles to dollars? Or is it some sort of barter system?

  31. vdragonmpc says:

    God Im with the soup makers… Its fall. The time of the great Brunswick Stew cookers. We will be doing ours and cooking a lot this year.

    This is also the first year that I am buying an efficient deep freezer. I hope others do to as when gas falls during the election Im stocking up on some things.. You know its going to be a rough spring.

  32. mrearly2 says:

    I’d say that at least 90% of “food” sold in this country is crap–highly-processed stuff, with little or no nutrition, but containing loads of chemicals. Preservatives, dyes, refined sugars, taste enhancers (msg, hydrolyzed protein, etc.) and whatnot all contribute to the users’ ill health.

  33. cf27 says:

    nd, ths s nws bcs?

    XXX mnfctrrs wnt t sll y chp XXX fr bg prfts.

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  34. GianniHamjam says:

    It’s not just the price – though 0.33/can is cheap. With sales and coupons, you can’t get below $0.75 a can here, and I’ve tried! That comes out to about 0.25/ cup of finished soup, but then you really have to spend the time to cut coupons and combine with sales. If you have to count the time spent cooking in the price, then you have to spend the time shopping for sales in there too. Most likely, you are spending $1.00/can, or 0.33/cup.

    I can make soup for a little bit less than that, maybe 0.20 to 0.25. But my soup is MUCH healthier, less sodium, less fat, more veggies, more fiber.

    Let’s say I make 16 cups of tomato soup (‘cuz it’s easy). This I can make for about 1/2 price as far as ingredients go. I am saving 0.16 per cup. That’s $2.56 for about 15 min of work, or $10.24 an hour, which becomes $15.75 an hour when you factor in taxes that you’d have to earn to “net” $10.24.

    If you can work overtime and get more than that per hour, and you’d rather work, then great! I’m salaried, so I’d rather cook the soup.