Watch Out For Supermarket Price Spikes

A penny-pinching reader discovered that Giant Eagle—a supermarket chain that heavily promotes a savings club where you earn slight discounts on gas—has some jacked up soup prices, especially on their private label. Remember, if you’re not comparison shopping among local supermarkets, you can expect easy-to-miss price spikes like this one to wipe out any savings you thought you were getting.

Update February 4, 2009: Cassandra wrote in to correct the claims below. She writes, “I shop [at Giant Eagle] so I thought I would check today when I was shopping. Their Giant Eagle brands tomato soup was 65 cents. The “Healthy” version was $1.39, but I think that compares to the Campbells Healthy Request, which was $1.49. It looked like both Campbells healthy request and the Giant Eagle version the reader was talking about are lower sodium.” Thanks for the Healthy Request correction! However, our warning about price spikes remains, and we want to point out that in the first “under $1” category the OP was comparing prices on regular Campbells brand soup, and in that category Giant Eagle still loses. In the case of house brands, Kroger still comes out on top even with the new info Cassandra provided, although nowhere near as dramatically.

I’m stocking up on condensed tomato soup, and have decided to investigate prices and brands. In the course of Friday afternoon, I discovered the following:

  • Campbell’s 8 pack at Sam’s Club, 63 cents/can
  • Campbell’s individually at Kroger, 64 cents/can on sale, 69 cents regularly
  • Campbell’s at Giant Eagle, 77 cents/can (wow)

I like the Kroger store brand, so I also compared store brand prices:

  • Kroger brand, 59 cents/can

Well, Giant Eagle has store brands too; let’s see what they have. …hmmmm, here’s something they say is “NEW ITEM!” and it’s the same size can. …label says “Healthy Tomato Soup”… is that good, maybe better than Campbells?. ….GOD GAWD, $1.39/can!

OK, this has GOT to be super-organic, made by elves from tomatos picked by virgins at the stroke of midnight on the one day of ripeness, right?

Wrong. Look at the nutrition information: Giant Eagle brand “Healthy Tomato Soup” for a buck-thirty-nine is the same ingredients as what’s in the 77 cents Campbell’s (which is actually 64 cents at Kroger), and the nutrition information is virtually the same as well. And face it: what are the odds that it came from the exact same plant and manufacturing line as the stuff that’s in the Kroger brand can?

It’s bad enough that Giant Eagle labels it as “Healthy”. But then to use that word to get people to pay 2x for the product is pure thievery.

Attention Giant Eagle shoppers: if you think you’re getting such a deal because you use your points to buy their grocery store gas at a discount, think again. No, you’re not really getting gas at 30 cents less per gallon
It’s all a shell game. You pay for it by blindly buying from Giant Eagle, and the net amount you pay for groceries and gas is no doubt significantly higher than what you’d pay just with some careful shopping, not worrying
about anyone’s gas-price tie-in, and buying your gas elsewhere.

For the record, it looks like you only get 10 cents off per gallon using their gas card.