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‘I can’t afford to eat’: Baton Rouge shoppers, grocery stores struggling under weight of inflation | Business – New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana 2022-06-24 09:00:00 –

Jada Gabriel goes shopping for groceries for a family of four every two weeks. On her last trip, she noticed that the price of butter went up.

“Usually it was 98 cents,” said Gabriel, an ophthalmologist who was shopping at the Hainaball supermarket on Winborn Avenue on Wednesday. “Now it’s $ 1.18.”

Gabriel hasn’t changed his shopping schedule, but his grocery trips last longer because he buys less in stores and has a family dining strategy.

She doesn’t buy much snacks or treats, only meat items that can be used to make multiple dishes, such as ground beef. She buys the smallest tube to avoid overpriced meat, which lasts only a few meals.

“Talking about it stresses me,” Gabriel said. “I can’t afford to eat.”

It’s not just Gabriel. Shoppers and grocery stores in the Baton Rouge region are shifting their strategies to combat the worst inflation in the United States in decades that have had a major impact on food prices.

The consumer price index is a mechanism that measures the amount of money the average consumer pays for goods and services, rising 8.6% year-on-year in May, the sharpest rise since 1981. Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Baton Rouge, shoppers tend to go for cheaper brands and they are skipping some luxury. Retailers are further flattening very thin margins to stay price competitive in tight markets. The conditions are the worst that some grocery veterans have seen in decades.

Clint Caldwell, General Manager of Baton Rouge Chain Shopper’s Value, said: “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Prices rise and shoppers “buy”

Grocery stores said the main cause of inflation was rising fuel prices and rising transportation costs due to ongoing labor problems with some suppliers, especially meat processors.

Carl Marks, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Retail Support and Business Development at Baton Rouge-based grocery distributor Associated Grocers, said supplier pricing despite COVID’s improved supply chain problems. States that it has been on the rise since last fall. ..

According to Marks, the shortage of available truck drivers has exacerbated the problem, and grain prices have skyrocketed as Russia’s war in Ukraine curbed national exports.

Since January 1, 1,500 suppliers of Associated Grocers have submitted a cost increase of 14,300. Pre-COVID, a typical year featured about 2,000 changes.

“Manufacturers first started hitting us with rising price costs in the fall, and after the beginning of the year, they came back to some of those very same items, and yet another to us. Or perhaps sent a two-round cost increase, “Marks said.

Grocery stores said the price hike had hit the product entirely, but some categories saw a bigger surge. Products such as beef, pork, chicken, eggs and beef are increasing. The cost of cooking oil will also increase.

Sales haven’t plummeted, Marks said, because the total price of customers’ baskets has risen.

Pam Cannatella, co-owner of Cannatella Grocery on Government Street, said her store is considering raising the price of cooked meals, even after a major hike in December.

She said the prices of some products are rising on a weekly basis.

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“It’s like a full-time job that just changes prices,” she said.

In response, as Caldwell said, shoppers are “buying”. That means they are avoiding national brands because of cheaper store labels. We also skip “incremental purchases” and pick up unplanned items as we navigate the aisles.

Grocery stores are trying to eat part of the cost so that consumers don’t pay the full amount. But retailers’ profit margins already accounted for about 2% of their revenue, Marks said.

“We’re not using the same margins as before,” said Jim Crifasi, president of HiNabor. “If the price goes up that much, you also have to be hit.”

Tony Mothern, co-owner of the Louisiana chain Mothern, said it was labor issues that would further reduce profit margins. “It’s hard to find an employee right now. Today we have to pay more than we did two years ago,” he said.

“To buy meat, you almost need a second mortgage.”

At HiNabor on Winbourne Avenue on Wednesday, shoppers searched the aisles to find the slimmest deal possible.

Like Gabriel, meat prices are a concern for retired Kenneth Austin. He said a few years ago he would buy more expensive cuts like steak on a regular basis. Well, that’s a more special occasion.

“To buy meat, you almost need a second mortgage,” Austin said. “Sometimes I get something out of fashion, but it’s not what I bought before the pandemic.”

Lactose intolerant Austin buys lactose-free milk in gallons. He bought it for less than $ 5. Now it’s almost $ 8. He plans in advance to make groceries last longer.

“Cooking on Mondays and Tuesdays is leftovers on Wednesdays and Thursdays,” Austin said.

Rita Jones Lashing noticed the price increase, but said her shopping habits hadn’t changed. Her receipts are kept low because she is retired and she only shop for herself.

“If I had a family of three or four, I would change,” Jones Lashing said. “I get the same thing every time.”

Phlebotomist Crystal Burton shop for his two sons twice a week. She sometimes chooses generic products to reduce costs. At Hi Nabor, there is a big difference between stores and products from well-known brands. Wonder bread bread costs $ 3.50, while food club white bread costs $ 1.72.

Burton said getting a brand name, like cereals, macaroni and cheese, is sometimes worth the money.

“It’s cheap, so you have to choose one,” Burton said. “Generics may not be available because they do not taste the same.”

Gabriel said he would choose a store brand most of the time, but in some supermarkets like Wal-Mart, it’s not a good bargain. When she checks out, she sometimes throws away unnecessary items at the last minute.

“I’m only 25 years old. It’s like being a real adult,” Gabriel said. “I’m looking at the price, and it’s influencing me.”

Austin said he was confident that prices would eventually fall, despite the pressure on inflation.

“If there’s a way out there, there’s a way out of it,” Austin said. “I need to hold my notebook a little more tightly. I’ll get it done.”

‘I can’t afford to eat’: Baton Rouge shoppers, grocery stores struggling under weight of inflation | Business Source link ‘I can’t afford to eat’: Baton Rouge shoppers, grocery stores struggling under weight of inflation | Business

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