Light Wave

U.S. News

Biden to call out food ‘shrinkflation,’ press companies on prices and corporate greed

By Jake Beardslee · February 23, 2024

In brief…

  • Biden debating how much to criticize food companies over high grocery prices in State of the Union
  • Embraced calling out "shrinkflation," sees it as relatable way to explain lingering financial strains
  • Has little power to force lower prices, but could endorse legislation targeting price gouging
  • Grocery groups warn against detached rhetoric, but Biden could tout blocking Kroger-Albertsons merger
As high grocery prices weigh on Americans, President Biden is weighing how much to criticize food companies' tactics like shrinkflation in his State of the Union, though he has little power to force lower prices.  The White House/Wikimedia

With painfully high grocery prices weighing on Americans’ budgets, President Biden is still debating how much to criticize major food corporations in his upcoming State of the Union address. Some White House aides worry about focusing too heavily on an issue the president has little power to control.

Biden has embraced calling out “shrinkflation,” saying companies are now selling bags “with ‘fewer chips’” while “still charging you just as much.” Polling shows the messaging resonates with voters angry over costs. Recent speech drafts reference shrinkflation as part of a segment on pushing companies to lower prices.

“It’s about framing this for the American people,” said one White House official, according to Politico. Biden’s frustration with tactics like shrinkflation “speaks to what they feel.”

Officials want to counter Republican attacks over food costs. Biden takes issue with practices like shrinkflation, sparked by conversations with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). The president sees it as a relatable explanation for lingering financial strains.

Biden leaned into the message during a recent event, saying “I saw ‘a little bit of corporate greed going on’” in high grocery prices. Since talking to Casey, he’s increasingly criticized shrinkflation. On Super Bowl Sunday, a prime chance to highlight brands using smaller packages.

But the White House has little power beyond rhetoric to make companies cut prices. Biden could endorse legislation by Casey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Tammy Baldwin targeting price gouging. That would be a major step.

Casey said companies are “trying to pull the wool over our eyes” with shrinkflation. Biden aides closely studied a European grocer adding shrinkflation warning labels and want to replicate that.

Grocery trade groups warn against “rhetoric” detached from reality. But Biden may tout an expected FTC challenge to a Kroger-Albertsons merger as a populist win.