By Mike Pomranz | FoodAndWine.Com
Troy Warren for CNT
Unilever, Mondelez, and General Mills are just some of the companies that have been pushing their prices upwards to deal with increased costs.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic sent grocery store prices soaring to their largest increase in a decade. The effect of that economic chaos isn’t going anywhere, apparently, as supermarket prices on the brands we know and love are likely to continue creeping upward for at least the immediate future.
Yesterday, Unilever — one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and owner of iconic brands like Hellmann’s, Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s, and Popsicle — said they would likely have to continue increasing prices over the course of the year after already raising them by 1.6 percent over the most recent quarter. “We’re very focused on our pricing actions, which we think are landing well,” CFO Graeme Pitkethly was quoted as saying, “but inflation has been even higher than we anticipated.”
Toss Unilever on the pile. The same day, The Wall Street Journal ran down the laundry list of major companies that have been, or are planning to, increase prices as underlying costs on things like transportation and labor continue to hit bottom lines: Conagra Brands, owner of Birds Eye, Duncan Hines, Slim Jim, and others; Mondelez, which makes Oreos, Ritz, Sour Patch Kids, and more; Hormel Foods, which beyond the obvious makes Skippy peanut butter and Jennie-O turkey products; and General Mills, maker of brands like Cheerios and Betty Crocker.
During an earnings call last week, Sean Connolly, president and CEO of Conagra, was asked about how these increases might affect his company’s sales. “[They are] likely to be aided by the ubiquity of the price increases in the grocery store,” he responded. “I think you call it strength in numbers.” Translation: This isn’t just a Conagra problem, and higher prices are something consumers will likely not be able to escape no matter which products they buy.
That’s not to say grocery stores aren’t trying. Earlier this month, we covered how grocery stores are stockpiling more inventory, trying to get locked into current prices before they go up even further. But likely, that’s just kicking the proverbial — or depending on the product, literal — can down the road. Prices appear set to continue to go up: Now, the question is becoming how much and for how long?
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