The ketchup inflation hits the weekend barbecue

New York

Planning to splash some ketchup on your hot dog at a weekend barbecue? You can see red.

A 32-ounce bottle of ketchup went from an average of $4.08 the week of May 16, 2022, to $5.22 the week of May 15, 2023, according to Datasembly, which measures weekly changes in grocery prices at more than 150,000 U.S. stores for the grocer. Price index. That’s a jump of almost 28%.

Other spices are also expensive. A 20-ounce bottle of mustard rose by approx. 13% in this period, and 26-ounce bottles and jars of flavor rose by approx. 12%.

Proteins were less expensive, and prices for beef sausages rose only 3%. And if you like your burgers clean, sans bun, you’re in luck: The price of 80/20 fresh ground hamburgers was essentially flat. In total, hamburger buns, sausage buns, relish, mustard, burgers, sausages and, of course, ketchup cost almost 9% more this year than last year.

The price increase should not come as too much of a shock. Although shoppers have begun to see some relief in the grocery aisle, food inflation has consistently outpaced general inflation.

Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Ketchup prices are piling up.

In the year through April, grocery prices rose 7.1%, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. In that period, prices rose a total of 4.9%.

Some individual categories, such as spices, are increasing even more than the average increase for groceries.

That could be because of high commodity prices, such as sugar and wheat, noted Carman Allison, vice president of thought leadership for North America at NIQ, which also tracks US retail prices.

“I think a lot of manufacturers are still challenged with the cost of ingredients,” Allison said. According to NIQ’s data, the prices of consumer packaged goods are also outstripping general inflation. NIQ’s own data shows that in the week up to and including April 30, ketchup prices increased by around 14% year-on-year.

Ingredient, labor and fuel prices all factor into the total costs of consumer packaged goods, which make items like ketchup and buns. And some companies have also used inflation as cover to raise their own profits.

Retailers are strategic when it comes to prices ahead of the holidays. They may offer discounts on certain items, such as hot dogs, while leaving others, such as ketchup, at full price.

“They can have a deal on one area of ​​the basket that’s potentially going to drive traffic to the store,” Allison said. Shoppers who come in for one thing are likely to “buy all the complementary products.”

In other words, if you come in for a good deal on hot dogs, you probably won’t leave without ketchup and buns.

Retailers also know that shoppers are less likely to focus on prices on key barbecue items this weekend.

“When we think about Memorial Day weekend, a lot of us will be traveling and there’s going to be a lot of time pressure,” Allison said.

Some customers who usually check out a few stores for the best deal will choose the convenience of a one-stop shop this time. “There might be a small win for the retailers,” Allison said.

Another reason ketchup and other condiments are expensive this year? More advanced options.

“Even in the spice world, there’s been a lot of new innovation and also premiumization,” Allison said. “Manufacturers and also retailers have kept pace with many of the consumer trends and demands.”

Last summer, Kraft Heinz ( KHC ) introduced a line of “elevated sauces and toppings,” including added honey.

And more innovation to come: The company recently unveiled a prototype machine that lets people mix their own ketchup flavors. These mixes can lead to new products on the shelves.

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