Category Archives: food

The Price History of Campbell’s Tomato Soup

Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup is one of America's most iconic consumer products. First introduced to American consumers by Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB) in 1898 after having been formulated by John Dorrance the year before, it now ranks as the company's second-most popular soup, selling 85 million cans each year.

That's quite an achievement for a 126 year old product. Campbell Soup sells 440 million cans of soup each year, so its sales of tomato soup represent over 19% of its sales. Only the company's Chicken Noodle soup, introduced in 1934, outsells it with annual sales of more than 250 million cans.

Political Calculations has tracked the price history of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup over the past 126 years because of its remarkable consistency as an identifiable product over time. In fact, if you had a time machine and could travel to nearly any point in time from January 1898 to the present, you could likely find a 10.75 ounce size (Number 1) can of Campbell's condensed tomato soup stocked for sale in American grocery stores.

That long-running consistency makes Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup an ideal product to follow to understand how inflation has affected American consumers through its history. Today, we're updating our chart visualizing that history from January 1898 through January 2023.

For the latest in our coverage of Campbell's Tomato Soup prices, follow this link!

Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup Unit Price per Can, January 1898 - January 2023 (Linear Scale)

In January 2023, we find the prevailing average sale price for this food product over the past 12 months is $1.23 per can. That figure has risen by over 29% from the trailing 12 month average of $0.95 per can we recorded in January 2022.

We've seen a major change over the past two years with respect to the discounted sale pricing of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup by U.S. retailers. Discounting of its sale price has become both smaller and less frequent. Before March 2021, which marks Month 0 for when President Biden's inflation got started, it was rare to see the regular sale price of a can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup above one dollar. In January 2023, that's now the lowest price at which American consumers can buy a can, where it has been temporarily reduced to that level by Kroger-affiliated grocery stores from their regular sale price of $1.29 per can during the week of 10 January through 17 January 2023.

Here's the January 2023 update for our periodic sampling of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup sale prices at 10 major U.S. grocery-selling retailers, where we're indicated the change in price since our previous update in October 2022:

  • Walmart: $1.26/each, unchanged
  • Amazon: $1.59/each, increase of $0.33 (+26.2%)
  • Kroger: $1.00/each, decrease of $0.29 (-22.5%)
  • Walgreens: $1.99/each, unchanged or $1.50/each when you buy two cans
  • Target: $1.39/each, unchanged
  • CVS: $2.29/each, increase of $0.50 (+27.9%)
  • Albertsons: $1.29/each, unchanged
  • Food Lion: $1.25/each, unchanged
  • H-E-B: $1.29/each, decrease of $0.01 (-0.8%)
  • Meijer: $1.29/each, unchanged

Prices of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup are converging toward a level of $1.25-$1.30 per can. We anticipate the trailing 12 month average price will breach the lower end of that range in February 2023.

When it does, it will cost 12.5 times more than the original price American grocery shoppers paid when Campbell's began selling their just-invented condensed soup products in 1898. Because its price history now spans more than a full order of magnitude, showing the price history in logarithmic scale gives a better sense of how much and when inflation has affected the prices American consumers pay for a can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup.

Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup Unit Price per Can, January 1898 - January 2023 (Logarithmic Scale)

If you're wondering how Campbell Soup is weathering President Biden's inflation, here's an excerpt of Briefing.com's report on the company's most recent quarterly results:

Campbell Soup reports a "soup-er" quarter as higher prices and supply chain fuel results (CPB)

Campbell Soup (CPB +5%) started off FY23 on a "mmm...mmm" good note. The food giant reported strong upside with its Q1 (Oct) results for both EPS and revs. What is notable is that this was CPB's largest EPS beat in the past two years. The company also increased FY23 guidance, although the Q1 upside accounts for much of that. CPB had been dealing with higher inflation for input costs but seems to have finally gotten a handle on it....

In sum, the very strong results were fueled by a combination of inflation-driven pricing and supply chain / productivity improvements. Also, the underlying trend of people cooking more at home seems to be pretty durable. We had concerns that consumers would revert to eating out more but it seems saving money by eating at home is a key trend right now. CPB has been plagued in recent quarters by having to absorb higher food input costs. CPB has announced price increases in the past, but they take time to impact the P&L. However, this Q1 report shows that higher selling prices have finally caught up to offset these costs.

Indeed they have.

Previously on Political Calculations

Political Calculations' analysis of Campbell's Tomato Soup dates back to 2015! Along the way, we've filled in the gaps we had in the historic price data and have explored America's second-most popular soup from a lot of different angles.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Rises 20% Higher Than 2021

The American Farm Bureau Federation reports the cost of providing a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner for 10 people in 2022 is 20% higher than a year ago. The identical grocery items that cost $53.31 a year ago now cost $64.05 according to the Farm Bureau's shopping survey, which is released each year just one week ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. That new food inflation comes on top of the year-over-year 14% increase recorded last year. Over the past two years, the grocery bill for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner has risen by 36.6%.

All these changes are illustrated in the following chart, in which we've visualized the costs of all the items on the Farm Bureau's annual Thanksgiving shopping list from 2020 through 2022.

Cost of a Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, 2020 vs 2021 vs 2022

In the chart, we've ranked the cost of the individual items and groupings used by the Farm Bureau for their traditional turkey dinner menu from high to low according to their 2021 cost as you read from left to right. We've also tallied the cumulative cost of the meal, with the totals for each shown on the far right side of the chart.

Ranking the data this way lets us see that the increase in the cost of turkey is once again responsible for most of the year-over-year increase in the cost of the meal. Here we see the cost of a 16-pound bird rose by 20.7% to $28.96 in 2022. This single item alone accounts for over 46% of the year-over-year increase in the total cost for the meal. Since 2020, the cost of turkey has increased by $9.57, making up 56% of the realized increase in Thanksgiving dinner ingredient costs over that time.

Meanwhile, only the price of cranberries fell compared to last year, dropping by 13.8%. Every other Thanksgiving dinner items increased in cost during 2022.

Among those items, a 1-pound veggie tray of carrots and celery registered the smallest year-over-year price increase of 7.3%. Every other item's cost was up significantly, recording double-digit year-over-year price increases ranging from a low of 11.2% for sweet potatoes to a high of 69.4% for a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing.

During the last ten years, the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner held steady within a relatively narrow range between $46.90 (2020) and $50.11 (2015). Thanks to the cumulative effect of President Biden's inflation, celebrating Thanksgiving with a traditional turkey dinner has never been more costly for Americans.

Thanksgiving 2022

If you missed it, last Friday kicked off Political Calculations' annual celebration of Thanksgiving, the most American of holidays! We'll continue focusing on turkeys and the holiday through the rest of the week!

References

American Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau: Survey Shows Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up 14%. [Online Article]. 17 November 2022.

American Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau: Survey Shows Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up 14%. [Online Article]. 18 November 2021.

American Farm Bureau Federation. Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Survey: 2022 Year to Year Prices. [PDF Document]. 17 November 2022.

Inventions in Everything: The Truly Boneless Thanksgiving Turkey

Although they may be really expensive and in short supply this year, most Americans Thanksgiving holiday dinner tables will still feature a turkey as its centerpiece. And those that do see that turkey ruthlessly butchered by non-professional carvers who will do more to process the meat into leftover hash than they will to serve elegant slices of turkey to their gathered families and guests.

Stable Diffusion: Roast Turkey Slices

That's because non-professional turkey carvers don't know how to deal with the bones. Wouldn't it have been much nicer if you could have bought a boneless bird? One that still looks the traditional bone-in centerpiece from Norman Rockwell's painting of a Thanksgiving celebration?

Inventor Peter Sieczkiewicz did, memorializing his unique method of preparing edible fowl in U.S. Patent 2,844,844! But before we go any further, Sieczkiewicz makes clear in the patent's description that we're talking about turkey:

For illustrative purposes, the invention will be described with reference to an edible turkey, although it will be appreciated that the method may equally well be employed in conjunction with other types of edible fowl, for example, chickens, geese, and the like.

Got it? If you've got an edible fowl, you can use the Sieczkiewicz method on it! Knowing that now, let's review what's wrong with every other method of preparing turkeys:

Turkeys are now processed in a variety of forms to comply with the needs and desires of different type consumers. In one conventional method, the meat of the turkey is stripped from the carcass and cut to a convenient size for packaging in various sized jars, and can containers. In another case, the flesh of the turkey is maintained intact and the turkey is similarly-packaged for sale in a pre-shaped can or the like. More recently, methods have been devised for completely removing the bones from the turkey and still retaining the skin and flesh structure. However, the latter methods have been dependent for their successful accomplishment upon; forming a plurality of incisions through the skin of the turkey as a preliminary step in order to facilitate and enable the successive removal of the different structures.

It will be apparent that a disadvantage characteristic of all the above methods presently used is the fact that either the skin of the turkey is completely removed or it is severed to the extent that the turkey as a whole does not retain its original appearance. In addition, it will be evident that after the boning operation has taken place, the turkey must be sewn along the incision lines or else firmly bound or tied together with the result that a further detraction from the natural appearance of the turkey will result.

What sane host would serve their guests something that looks like Frankenstein's Thanksgiving dinner? Fortunately, there's now a better way! But before we get into the patented Sieczkiewicz method for deboning a turkey while preserving its classic contours, let's get to the patent's illustrations because we'll need to refer back to them.

U.S. Patent 2,844,844 Figures 1-4

Here's what you're looking at:

Figure 1 is a view of a dressed turkey;

Figure 2 is "a general view of the bone structure of the turkey of Figure 1;

Figure 3 is a view of the turkey of Figure 1 after the bone structure, as shown in Figure 2, is removed therefrom; and, Figure 4 is a view of the turkey of Figure 3 after stuffing and final preparation for the consumer.

In Figure 1 there is shown a dressed fowl or turkey, as it is received by the butcher, with its intestines, feet and head removed. The turkey is shown as having legs 10 and wings 11. The back portion of the turkey is denoted by the numeral 14 and the breast portion is indicated at 15, while the neck or crop opening is identified by the numeral 13.

We're not going to hold back from this point on. Everything you need to know about deboning a turkey in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible is contained in the following extended excerpt:

In the performance of the method of the present invention, no special tools are required, and the removal of the bones may be, accomplished with a conventional butcher's boning knife, in conjunction with the use of his fingers and fingernails. Towards this end, the first step is to insert the boning knife through the neck opening 13 and begin the successive disjointing and removal of the various bones. The bone removal procedure may be more clearly described by reference to Figure 2.

Initially, the wing bones 16 are disjointed from and severed from the shoulder blade bones 17. The wing bones 16 are thereafter removed through the neck opening 13 as the wings 11 themselves are reversed such that the skin and flesh are turned back inside out. After the wing bones 16 have been removed and the wings 11 turned back, the shoulder blade bones 17 are cut away from their connection to the upper back bone 18 and similarly removed through the neck opening 13.

The next step is to remove the wish bone 19 connected to and forming the upper portion of the breast bone 20.

The wish bone 19 is severed from the breast bone 20 and similarly taken out through the neck opening. At this point either the breast bone 20 or the upper backbone 18 may be disjointed for removal. Before the breast bone 20 or upper backbone 18 are removed, rib bones 22 are first broken and removed from the turkey. Thereafter, the breast bone 20 and upper backbone 18 are taken out through the neck opening 13.

As this operation is proceeding, it is desirable for the butcher to continually roll back the skin and flesh as the bones are removed in order that he may have access to the bones still remaining within the turkey body.

Where certain larger bodied fowl are involved, it may not be necessary to turn back the skin except during the removal of the leg and wing bones. For the purpose of removing the bones, it is desirable that the butcher employ his fingers for breaking the bone joints, while at the same time utilizing the boning knife and his fingernails as a means of scraping back the flesh and skin, whereby the meat will not be drawn out with the bones.

Continuing with the bone removing steps, the thigh bones 23 are separated from the lower backbone 24 and from the leg bones 25, and the thigh bones 23 are then removed. Thereafter, the leg bones 25 may be simply removed. At this time the only bone structure remaining will be the upper backbone 21 and the lower backbone 24 which as a connected structure may be easily slipped out from within the body of the turkey.

That's the hard part. If you've been following along with your own turkey at home, the next passage will confirm you're looking at what you think you're looking at. It will also provide you with the final instructions you need to complete your deboning procedure:

In view of the progressive normal turning back of the skin and flesh, it will be appreciated that after all the bones have been removed in accordance with the foregoing method steps, the turkey will be substantially turned inside out with the skin in the interior and the flesh exposed. At this time, the turkey may be turned back to its normal position by drawing back the flesh towards the neck opening 13 so that the skin is again in its natural position on the outer surface of the turkey.

Without the supporting bone structure, the turkey will have the flat, flabby appearance as indicated in Figure 3, with the wings 11 and legs 10 stretched out. In order to prepare the turkey for distribution and sale, the turkey may be stuffed in a conventional manner, although it will be appreciated that since the fowl is limp and flabby that a great deal of care must be taken to assure that the skin and flesh will not be inadvertently ruptured or damaged. For this purpose the wings should either be secured with respect to each other, or with respect to the body of the turkey. Similarly, the legs should preferably be held together or to the body of the turkey as the stuffing operation is proceeding. Thereafter, the legs may be provided with skewers or similar strengthening members 26, as indicated in Figure 4, and the wings attached in a conventional manner to the breast portion of the turkey, whereby the turkey may then be precooked and frozen or merely frozen preparatory to eventual distribution and sale to the ultimate consumer.

It's the end of this description that might make a turkey consumer wonder why they bothered removing all the bones from their bird in the first place. Unfortunately, that may also be why the Sieczkiewicz method never caught on with the Thanksgiving-enjoying public, which is why you will not find such a finely prepped fowl for sale at your local grocer over sixty years after the method was originally patented. That's why we've given you the detailed deboning directions from the patent in this edition of Inventions in Everything, because that's all that remains of Peter Sieczkiewicz' inventive inspiration.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Credit: Stable Diffusion DreamStudio Beta: "Photograph of homemade sliced roast turkey breast, intricate, elegant, highly detailed, digital painting, artstation, concept art, smooth, sharp focus, illustration, art by Annie Liebovitz".

More from the IIE Archives

The Inventions in Everything team has previously covered at least two other innovations created to solve the problems of disassembling food!

The Escalating Price of Wheat

The price of bread in the U.S. is rising to all-time highs. One of the top contributing factors to its increase is the 2022's rising price of wheat.

The following chart shows the price per bushel of wheat grown in the U.S. from 1866 through 2021, with a preliminary average for 2022 based on available prices reported from January through May.

Wheat, Price per Bushel, 1866-2021, with Preliminary Estimate for 2022

During 2022, the average monthly price of a bushel of wheat has ranged from a low of $7.45 in January through a high of $11.40 in May, with an overall average of $9.36 during those months. That's 25% higher than 2012's nominal record peak of $7.48 per bushel. It's also more than double the 2019 pre-pandemic low of $4.08 per bushel.

Adjusting the prices for inflation, the price of a bushel of wheat is returning to levels last seen in the high inflation years of the 1970s and 1980s. The next chart shows the available inflation adjusted history for wheat prices in the U.S.

Wheat, Inflation-Adjusted Price per Bushel, 1866-2021, with Preliminary Estimate for 2022 (Constant 2022 U.S. Dollars)

With inflation factored in, 1917 represents the year with the highest wheat prices thanks to the prolonged impact of World War I and a low wheat harvest in 1917. It wasn't until after World War II when the introduction of widespread irrigation and other improvements in agricultural technologies greatly increased the productivity of American farmers and the amount of wheat they produced. Those improvements led to generally falling prices outside periods of high inflation, and particularly, outside periods with high petroleum prices.

Update 3 August 2022

From Reuters: Analysis: As wheat prices soar, the world's consumers vote with their feet

References

U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Quick Stats: Survey > Crops > Field Crops > Wheat > Price Received > Wheat - Price Received, Measured in $/BU > Total > State > Kansas > 2020-2021 > Annual > Marketing Year. [Online Database]. Accessed 22 July 2022.

Measuring Worth. The Annual Consumer Price Index for the United States, 1774 - Present. [Online Database]. Accessed 22 July 2022.

Breadflation

Bloomberg finds another familiar consumer good whose price is rapidly rising and hitting Americans where it hurts in their wallets: bread.

People really begin noticing inflation when it shows up in things that they regularly buy. That’s why gasoline and milk get so much attention. Add bread to a growing list of basics that are rising in price and crushing consumer sentiment.

Amid the highest US inflation in four decades, bread prices have soared this year, pushing more premium options to an unheard-of $10 a loaf and beyond.

“It’s kind of like a punch in the nose,” said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School. These are prices “nobody has seen before” and have the same impact as gasoline hitting $5 a gallon, he said.

The Bloomberg article features a chart showing the retail price of a pound of white bread over the past 10 years. But since we're talking about the highest inflation in the last 40 years, we wondered how the price of bread has changed since January 1980. In the following chart, we visualize all the Bureau of Labor Statistics' available data at this writing, showing in both nominal (the prices people actually pay) and in terms of constant June 2022 inflation-adjusted dollars.

U.S. White Bread Retail Price per Pound, January 1980-June 2022

In nominal terms, we can see the price of a pound of white bread in the U.S. has never been higher. It is nearly 3.4 times what it cost in January 1980.

But we find something different when we account for inflation. Here, we find the average cost of a pound of white bread has ranged from a low of $1.391 in June 1987 to a high of $1.994 in December 2008. At June 2022's average price of $1.691 per pound, the relative cost of bread is in the middle of the range Americans have paid over the last 42+ years. One might reasonably wonder why Bloomberg's writers are choosing to make the big deal out of it that they are.

If you dig deeper into the Bloomberg article, you'll find its three authors are strangely focused on a "premium" bread price of $10 per pound as some kind of talismanic threshold in which they find meaning. As you'll see in the following excerpt, that price applies for a "luxury" two-pound loaf being aimed at consumers with a lot of discretionary income:

In Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, husband-and-wife team Taylor and Brian Bruns are trying to stay profitable at their mountain-themed restaurant, Flat & Point. This spring, they ramped up their baking to begin selling loaves of sourdough and whole wheat at farmers markets across the city.

The couple priced their 2-pound loaves at $10, hoping to offset higher flour costs, but also because of surging prices for eggs and butter. While the price tag has turned off some shoppers at the farmers market, it’s fair because they use pricier organic ingredients, according to Taylor Bruns.

“We’ve definitely gotten pushback,” she said.

Comparing apples to apples, the Bruns are asking farmers market customers to pay $5.00 per pound for their gourmet bread product, which is 2.96 times what those same consumers would pay for plain white bread. That's deeper analysis than the three authors have done, so lets consider what it really means by asking some questions.

With money getting tighter because of President Biden's not-so-transitory inflation, which kind of bread do you think these consumers will be more likely to buy when they go shopping six months from now? If you're an investor, would you invest money in the opportunity to expand production of a high-end barbeque restaurant's gourmet bread product in today's economic climate?

Ultimately, it's the answers to the questions we've asked that will determine what the future will be for all those involved. The first question asks you to put yourself into the shoes of a typical consumer. But the second question is the deeper one, because our hypothetical investor might be the small business owner using their own money to expand their business, or perhaps a loan underwriter at a bank, who has to decide if investing in that scheme is worth the risk. Whether it is hinges on how the consumer will answer their question.

They're all being affected by what we'll call "breadflation", even though its a lot more about the "flation" than it is about the "bread". In today's economic climate, all Americans are facing similar questions because of it.