The average discounted sale price of a Number 1 can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup jumped 13 cents per can during 2020, rising from $0.86 to $0.99 from March through December as the coronavirus pandemic worked its way to, then through the U.S.
In essence, what happened is that increased consumer demand for Campbell’s Tomato Soup during the pandemic led grocers to stop discounting their sale prices for the product as reflected in their weekly ads. Here’s the latest update to our chart tracking the average discounted sale price of Campbell’s iconic cans of tomato soup from January 1898 through January 2021.
That situation may be starting to change in 2021, but in a way we think is very specifically attributable to the pandemic. In January 2021, we noted weekly ad circulars putting Campbell’s tomato soup on sale at a 50% discount compared to their shelf pricing, with the 10.75-ounce cans carrying a unit price of 50 cents.
Winter months typically represent the peak season for purchases of Campbell’s tomato soup, so these sales represent a very atypical event. We quickly found the reason for the discounts after visiting several grocery stores in a region that has been greatly affected by the winter surge in COVID-19 cases, where we found the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a shift in consumer demand:
As you can see in the this picture, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle is sold out, while there are ample supplies of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. What this indicates is that consumers in this coronavirus-hit area have developed a strong preference for Chicken Noodle soup, which many perceive help relieve cold and flu symptoms.
The pandemic-influenced shift in consumer preference accounts for the relative oversupply of tomato soup with respect to chicken noodle soup, and thus, the atypical sale prices for Campbell’s Tomato Soup at this point of the pandemic.
Altogether, all this means is that the pandemic has not changed the laws of supply and demand.
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