It’s Official: Food Inflation Highest Since 1981

Latest Labor Department data shows higher-than-expected CPI increases
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
It’s Official: Food Inflation Highest Since 1981
The 12-month percentage change, Consumer Price Index, selected categories, January 2022, not seasonally adjusted. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Economic data confirms what grocers and their shoppers are acutely aware of: inflation is as high as it’s been in recent memory. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose a higher-than-expected 7.5% from January 2021 to January 2022.

That jump was the highest since February 1982 and was fueled by high gas, energy, vehicle and grocery prices. The rate of food inflation was 7% during that same time period, the most since 1981.

Compounded by ongoing supply chain issues, inflation crept up on a monthly basis, too. According to BLS data, the core CPI increased 0.6% from December, while food prices edged 0.9% higher after rising at a slower pace during the previous three months. The CPI for food at home came in 1% higher, compared to 0.7% for food away from home.

Breaking down the food sector, government statistics show that five of the six major grocery store food group indexes rose in January. The gains were led by cereals and bakery products, up 1.8% over the month that included the holidays. Other categories with CPI lifts included dairy and related products (+1.1%), fruits and vegetables (+0.9%) and meats/poultry/fish/eggs (+0.3%). According to BLS data, the only group index that remained stable in January (also the month deemed "Dry January") was the one for non-alcoholic beverages.

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