While staples such as meat and bread are up in price compared to a year ago, it is the toppings going on the burger or hot dog that are feeling the starkest of increases this holiday.
Those running out for some forgotten (or, in some case, quickly finished) ketchup are sure to feel the sting of inflation because, going off data from market comparison site Datasembly, CNN reported that a 32-bottle of ketchup now costs an average of $5.22 at grocery stores across the U.S. In May 2022, the same bottle cost only $4.08 or nearly 28% less.
Condiments Are Rising in Price for One Simple Reason
According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ Consumer Price Index, the cost of groceries overall rose by 7.1% in April 2023. This is a significant decrease from the double-digit increases seen in the summer of 2022 but, according to Datassembly’s numbers, those numbers are significantly higher for condiments in particular.
Mustard now costs 13% more than it did in May 2022 while a bottle of relish is 12% more expensive. This is in contrast to proteins like beef, which saw much more drastic fluctuations earlier in the year but in May is up by less than 1% at the current point in time.
The reason for the discrepancy between condiments and other foods comes down to, according to industry analysts interviewed for the article, the more processed nature of the product. While beef (at least the good kind) is usually a single ingredient, sauces have lots of ingredients each affected by differing availability and problems in the supply chain cycle.
“I think a lot of manufacturers are still challenged with the cost of ingredients,” Carman Allison, a food industry analyst and North American VP of thought leadership at NIQ, told CNN. The more heavily processed beef hot dogs are up by 3% — still significantly lower than ketchup and mustard.
Food Inflation Is a Problem But You’ll Still Buy That Last-Minute Ketchup Bottle
Perhaps there was a shortage to tomato supply just leading up to Memorial Day because, during the last week of April, ketchup prices were up only 14%. Taken together, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, relish, mustard, burgers, hot dogs and ketchup prices are up 9% from a year ago in the week leading up to the holiday.
Allison further said that holidays such as Memorial Day are a time when many track prices a little less stringently — someone running out for ketchup while the family’s waiting will not come out empty-handed just because the bottle costs a dollar or even a few dollars more.
“As we think about the Memorial Day weekend, a lot of us will be traveling, and there’s gonna be a lot of time pressures,” Allison said.
But overall, food inflation is literally eating away at what consumers can afford and putting a serious dent in many people’s wallets. One study from Omaha-based insurance company Breeze found that 73% of U.S. households have cut back on restaurants and takeout while 57% bought different or fewer groceries to combat inflation in 2022.
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