Biden Targets a New Economic Villain: Shrinkflation

On Super Bowl Sunday, the White House released a short video in which a smiling President Biden, sitting next to a table stocked with chips, cookies and sports drinks, slammed companies for reducing the package size and portions of popular foods without an accompanying reduction in price.

“I’ve had enough of what they call shrinkflation,” Mr. Biden declared.

The video lit up social media and delighted a consumer advocate named Edgar Dworsky, who has studied “shrinkflation” trends for more than a decade. He has twice briefed Mr. Biden’s economic aides, first in early 2023 and again a few days before the video aired. The first briefing seemed to lead nowhere. The second clearly informed Mr. Biden’s new favorite economic argument — that companies have used a rapid run-up in prices to pad their pockets by keeping those prices high while giving consumers less.

The products arrayed in the president’s video, like Oreos and Wheat Thins, were all examples of the shrinkflation that Mr. Dworsky had documented on his Consumer World website.

While inflation is moderating, shoppers remain furious over the high price of groceries. Mr. Biden, who has seen his approval ratings suffer amid rising prices, has found a blame-shifting message he loves in the midst of his re-election campaign: skewering companies for shrinking the size of candy bars, ice cream cartons and other food items, while raising prices or holding them steady, even as the companies’ profit margins remain high.

The president has begun accusing companies of “ripping off” Americans with those tactics and is considering new executive actions to crack down on the practice, administration officials and other allies say, though they will not specify the steps he might take. He is also likely to criticize shrinkflation during his State of the Union address next week.

Mr. Biden could also embrace new legislation seeking to empower the Federal Trade Commission to more aggressively investigate and punish corporate price gouging, including in grocery stories.

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