Inflation Is Already Here…But It's Being Masked
Since 2007, the world’s Central Banks have collectively put more than $10 trillion into the financial system since 2008. To put that number into perspective, it’s equal to roughly 15% of global GDP.
This kind of money printing is literally unheard of in modern history. And it has set the stage for a roaring wave of inflation to hit the financial system. Indeed, the first signs are already showing up... not in the “official” Government data (which is bogus) but in how those who run businesses around the globe are acting.
Most people believe that when inflation hits, prices have to go higher. This is true, but higher prices can be manifested in multiple ways. Firms usually do not simply raise prices in nominal terms as price elasticity can kill revenues because it would hurt sales.
Instead, companies resort to a number of strategies to maintain profit margins without hurting their sales. One of them is to simply leave part of a package EMPTY, thereby selling LESS product for the SAME price (a hidden price hike).
Food manufacturers, like the politicians currently debating health reform, may have a solution to the obesity crisis: Feed Americans a lot of hot air. But this heated air is not just a figure of speech for packaged goods companies including Ralcorp Holdings' (RAH) Post Foods and PepsiCo (PEP) subsidiaries Frito-Lay and Quaker.
In many packaged products, as much as 50% of the contents is just empty space, an investigation by Consumer Reports reveals. And we consumers are buying that nothingness every day.
Another tactic corporation use is to simply sell smaller packages for the SAME price (another means of selling less for MORE= a price hike).
U.S. Companies Shrink Packages as Food Prices Rise
Large food companies have recently announced that they will raise the prices they charge grocery retailers for commodities-based products. For example, a chocolate bar will cost more soon: Hershey last week announced a 10% increase for most of its confectionery goods.
Of course, straightforward price hikes could cause consumers to buy less of those products or to choose less costly store brands. So in many cases, food companies are trying a different tactic: Keeping the price of an item the same while decreasing the amount of food in the package. The company recoups the costs of the rise in commodities and hopes consumers don't notice that they're getting less of the product for the same price.
However, perhaps the most scandalous policy employed by companies looking to engage in stealth price hikes is to swap out higher quality ingredients for lower quality/ lower cost alternatives. One bigname coffee maker was caught doing this just a few years ago.
Reuters is reporting that many of America's major brands have been quietly tweaking their coffee blends. While most coffee companies consider their blends trade secrets, and are loath to disclose exactly what goes into them, both circumstantial and direct evidence suggests they're now substituting lower-grade Robusta beans for some of their pricier Arabica, and degrading the quality of our coffee…
At least one coffee roaster has admitted it. In November, Massimo Zanetti USA, which roasts for both Chock full o'Nuts and Hills Bros., publicly confirmed upping its Robusta usage by 25% this year.
Why the switcheroo? Prepare to not be shocked. The answer is: price.
Last year, a shortage of Arabica caused prices of the premium bean to spike as high as $3 a pound -- $2 more than what a pound of Robusta would cost. This compares to a five-year historical trend of Arabica costing closer to 70 cents more than Robusta. In recent weeks, the trend has reversed, with Arabica prices falling to just a 62-cent premium over Robusta.
In simple terms, inflation is already around us, though it’s not yet showing up in LITERAL price hikes. Instead, we’re all paying MORE for LESS. And it’s only a matter of time before the situation really gets out of control.
For a FREE Special Report on an uniquely profitable inflation hedge, swing by….
Graham Summers is Chief Market Strategist for Phoenix Capital Research, an independent investment research firm based in the Washington DC-metro area with clients in 56 countries around the world.
Graham’s clients include over 20,000 retail investors as well as strategists at some of the largest financial institutions in the world (Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, and Raymond James to name a few). His views on business and investing has been featured in RollingStone magazine, The New York Post, CNN Money, Crain’s New York Business, the National Review, Thomson Reuters, the Glenn Beck Show and more.