Putting food on the table is more challenging now than it has ever been before. The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s economic research service found the consumer price index for food in June increased by 12.2 percent in comparison to June 2021.
Warren Brown, vice president of operations for independent grocery store chain Quality Foods, spoke on WDUN’s Newsroom to give a local perspective on these rising prices.
Quality Foods has eight grocery stores, including ones in Winder, Toccoa, Commerce and Cornelia. Brown said that items’ prices are determined by their demand, any supply chain issues and ultimately, how far the product had to travel to get to store shelves.
“There's of course fuel, it’s costing more to get products here and there,” Brown said.
Since Quality Foods is an independent chain, Brown said his grocery stores can purchase produce from local farmers more easily than larger chain stores. The less distance the product has to travel, the more likely it is for the product to be cheaper.
“We drive that price down to give the customer that advantage when we're able to buy local like that, and at a better price than what we would have to pay to have it hauled in from one of our suppliers in Hickory, North Carolina,” Brown said. “So we eliminate those people out of that step out of the chain. So we're able to sell cheaper.”
However, not all items can be priced like this. Brown said he has to survey competitors’ prices for eggs and milk each week, which can vary greatly.
“At the current price of eggs, we're losing about 40 cents a dozen for large eggs on every dozen we sell,” Brown said. “We're also losing on a gallon of milk every one we sell. Because if I priced it at my normal little bit of profit, you would think I was crazy. So you have to stay at a competitive price there, just because it’s something the consumer comes after every day.”
Brown said he does not anticipate prices dropping anytime soon. He estimated that food inflation could spike between 10 and 15 percent by the end of the year.
Even if prices start to fall in the future, Brown said that grocery prices will likely never be the same.
“I've seen it in the gas pumps in the past when the price went way up, but it never went back to where it was before,” Brown said. “I can see some of that happening in the grocery industry. It won't be back to where it was before all this started.”
Click on the link above to listen to the full interview.