I learned something about cost-creep today that hopefully will benefit you. Don Miguel The Bomb Spicy Red Hot Beef & Bean Burrito is a favorite of mine—available in lots of 12 at my local Costco Business Center. When I first found them, some years ago, a case could be bought for $18.99 or $1.58 per 14-ounce burrito. Later, the price rose to $19.99 before quickly going up to $20.99 and finally $21.99 during the tightest SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns. That’s $1.67, $1.75, and $1.83 per package, respectively.
After nearly exhausting a somewhat stocked supply, I returned with my wife to the warehouse store for more. My mistake: I did not closely inspect the box. Price is higher now: $22.49 for that dozen-filled case. But that 50 cents more is for less. The Bomb now is 12 ounces, a decrease of 14 percent in size for a burrito costing $1.87—15 cents per ounce versus 13 cents previously or 11 cents from what I paid about three years ago; maybe four, I don’t rightly recall.
Hidden price increases in smaller sizes are common enough but they’re on the rise in these inflationary times. Wait, is that an oxymoron? Inflation being deflation when consumers pay more because manufacturers sell less ounces per unit?
But there’s more to that 2-ounce deflation. Don Miguel also changed the recipe, which I can attest to from eating experience this evening. The nutritional information on the label reveals some of the impact. There are now 6 sugars per 12-ounce burrito versus two for the 14-ouncer; and, whoa, I feel the effects, too. If not for being excited that The Bomb was in stock, disgruntled at seeing the price increase, and fooled by the same-size box, I might otherwise have taken an extra minute to ensure that nothing has changed. Because I have encountered other products where, whether or not the unit size decreased, the recipe changed—and the nutritional info along with it.
Had I taken an extra 60 seconds to look at the label, the box would have returned to the freezer for some other unlucky buyer. The new recipe doesn’t much appeal to me, making my regret all the greater.
So, remember, check the unit size, nutritional label, and ingredient list—at least the first two. For example, one pasta sauce that we buy is same size and price but the recipe modified to include tomato juice, which increases the grams of sugar. With supply chains still disrupted and manufacturers’ costs of some ingredients increasing, recipe modifications could be more common. Especially watch for more—what Annie and I call—the secret ingredient: sugar.