The U.S. Has an Inflation Problem

FMI's CEO disagrees with recent Progressive Grocer editorial column
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Grocery Inflation
FMI’s CEO argues that the real issue impacting consumers is the U.S. economy's struggle with inflation.

In her recent editorial, Progressive Grocer Editor-in-Chief Gina Acosta maintains that “The Grocery Industry Has a Reputation Problem.” While economic instability has certainly put a strain on shoppers, I fundamentally disagree with her premise. Rather, the real issue is that America has an inflation problem

The Gallup poll that Ms. Acosta cites demonstrates that U.S. business sectors’ average positivity rating is at its worst since the 2008 recession, and despite a drop in favorability, grocers remain in the top five most positively rated business sectors. This ranking is significant because the food industry plays such an essential role in people’s lives, as evidenced by its role in keeping Americans safe and fed throughout the pandemic. We also maintain the safest, healthiest and most affordable food supply in the world. 

Of course, we know these facts are no solace for consumers, who at the end of the day are undoubtedly paying more for their groceries – and other essentials, like fuel and housing – than they did a year ago. This is largely due to a confluence of issues, from pandemic related supply disruptions and labor shortages to extreme weather and Russia’s war in Ukraine. While many of these factors remain outside our sphere of power to influence, the latest CPI numbers make it clear there is still work to be done to address these issues.  

The food industry is collaborating throughout the entire supply chain to secure consumer-centric progress on prices, while the grocery industry continues to maintain a net 1-2% profit margin (which has been consistent for nearly four decades). Consumers have reported that some of these efforts are working. In fact, in our latest Grocery Shopper Trends report released in August, nearly nine in 10 shoppers reported that they feel they have at least some degree of control over their finances, particularly when it comes to their grocery budgets. This is a testament to retailers’ success at offering quality store-brand products and providing shoppers with helpful resources to stretch their grocery budgets, such as in-store registered dietitians, grocery store loyalty programs, and grocers’ apps that provide alerts on sales, deals, and coupons when they are available.  

Food retailers pride themselves on serving as the cornerstone of our communities, providing jobs, nutritious foods, health care services and more. This was especially true throughout the pandemic, when food industry employees served on the frontlines to keep the nation fed and the industry invested more than $24 billion to safely serve their neighbors. I’m proud of how our industry stepped up and how we continue to support our local communities day in and day out. 

For example, just last month our industry came together for Family Meals Month, our longstanding commitment to helping America stay strong with family meals, which provide physical, mental, and emotional benefits. The program was effective at encouraging people to eat more home cooked meals, with one-in-three Americans reporting they had seen or heard Family Meals Month messaging this year. At a time when many consumers are worried about inflation and stretching their food dollars, it is important to note that of those who heard about family meals, nine out of 10 (91%) consider the home meal more economical than eating out. 

Times are tough, and we understand that shoppers are frustrated by inflated prices. Across the country, families are less positive about the economy as a whole and we understand how budget anxieties are more pronounced at the grocery store. Our industry is committed to continuing to provide healthy meals for our communities, and to providing the resources needed to ensure they’re affordable even in the face of inflation.  

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