inflation toronto

People are furious with Canadian grocery stores for profiting off inflation

Most Canadians are struggling to afford basic necessities right now amid a 40-year inflation high, and food prices in particular continue to shock as they rise to exorbitant levels.

While food suppliers are warning of even more price hikes coming in September for various goods, people are also beginning to question the role of the nation's biggest supermarket chains — which profited hard during the pandemic and continue to into this year — in unaffordable price jumps for basic groceries.

Loblaws saw profits spike by 40 per cent in the first quarter of this year, and also reported in May that prices for items in its stores were indeed going up faster than the overall consumer price index — 9.7 per cent for groceries vs. 7.7 per cent overall infation rate (which is being pulled up by food inflation), figures from StatCan show. 

While the health crisis has disrupted labour, supply chain and manufacturing costs, the big three grocery stores in the nation are jacking up prices "more than they have to," a Toronto Star report has found, all after recording a record $4 billion in extra grocery sales within the first six months of lockdown vs. the year prior.

Numbers analyzed by the news outlet show that profit margins have been increasing for Loblaw Companies Ltd., Empire Company Ltd. (owner of Sobeys) and Metro Inc., meaning that the higher prices facing customers are not just a result of increased costs on their end.

And consumers, money from whom the chains keep about 60 per cent of when spent at their stores, are starting to take notice and ask questions.

With a lack of competition due to the industry's oligopoly, though, many residents don't have many other options of where to buy without supporting the big three, who collectively own Dominion, Farm Boy, FreshCo, Food Basics, IGA, Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Shoppers Drug Mart, T&T, Zehrs, and more.

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