What ‘Supermarket Sweep’ tells us about changing grocery store prices

When “Supermarket Sweep” debuted in the ‘60s, you could win the Big Sweep with $300. Today, it’s over $2k of wagyu steaks and fancy honey.

In the 1960s, you could win “Supermarket Sweep” with less than $300 in your cart. Today, you’d better get $2k. Here’s why.

What ‘Supermarket Sweep’ tells us about changing grocery store prices

‘Supermarket Sweep’ first aired from 1965-1967

It ran again from 1990-1995 and 2000-2003, then got rebooted in 2020 with comedian Leslie Jones.

In all versions, 3 teams of 2 play various games inside a grocery store. In the ‘60s, they used real stores around NYC; since the ‘90s, they’ve been mock stores built in LA.

How the store is stocked

The show’s piece de resistance is the “Big Sweep,” in which players have ~1-2 minutes to fill their cart with groceries and challenge items, which are worth extra cash. The team whose cart is worth the most money advances to a final challenge.

Brett Hatcher, an art director on the reboot, told The Hustle that non-challenge items come from and are priced by a grocery supply company. So, the groceries contestants grab reflect current real-world prices.

Winning cart totals have changed dramatically over the decades

We watched several Big Sweeps from each decade at random, logged the winning total minus challenge bonuses, and took an average:

1960s: $211 (accounting for inflation, $1,728 in 2021)
1990s: $608 ($1,151.06)
2000s: $854 ($1,319.92)
2020: $2,708

It’s not just inflation that made 2020 carts so expensive

Producer Wes Kauble told Collider that most items have gone up ~15%-20% since the ‘90s.

But today’s stores also have more expensive offerings. Frozen turkeys ($30-$50) have long been a player favorite, but now there are $300 wagyu ribs, $30 jars of manuka honey, $33 reusable water bottles, and $45 energy drink mixes. Jeez.

Fun fact: Versions of “Supermarket Sweep” have aired in numerous other countries, including Britain, Vietnam, and Ukraine.

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