Less than 24 hours after the federal government reported that grocery price increases hit a 46-year high in April, Wegmans Food Markets became one of the first major grocers to address the issue.
The grocery chain sent an email to shoppers on Wednesday letting them know to expect price fluctuations on certain items in the store due to "an increase in operating costs and an increase in product costs in supply-challenged areas, such as meat.
"As grocers, we have experienced more change in the past two months than we have in the last 50 years," said the statement to shoppers titled "A Note from the Wegman Family." "There is not a part of the food supply chain that has gone unaffected. Everything works differently; new partnerships are being forged, and we continue to keep our shelves full and our stores a safe place to work and shop."
In the note, the company says it wants to "remain transparent about what is happening in the world around us. As more businesses begin to open, they too will see that the cost of doing business has changed from a short time ago. We will do our part and share our processes and procedures with other businesses, so they can save time and get their businesses open quicker."
Wegmans says the store experience during and after COVID is, and will continue to be, very different.
"Our priority has always been the safety of our employees and customers and keeping our stores open," the note says. "All the decisions we have made came from this perspective, not the impact to our bottom line. We have always believed, if we do what is right and take a long-term view of the business, everything will work out. These decisions have been no different."
On Tuesday, the Department of Labor reported that U.S. grocery prices jumped 2.6% in April, the largest one-month increase in more than a generation, the largest one-month percentage increase for grocery prices since February 1974, the federal agency said. The prices of meats, fish, poultry and eggs increased 4.3% last month. Fruit and vegetable prices increased 1.58%; cereal and bakery items 2.9%; and dairy products 1.5%. Overall, the Labor Department said that U.S. prices in general decreased 0.8% percent, thanks in large part to the severe drop in oil and gasoline prices.
In March, a Wegmans spokeswoman told the Boston Herald that the grocer had placed a two-item limit on 80% ground beef and family packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The grocer also addressed price increases. “As our supplies tighten and costs increase for high-demand items, we are committed to keeping our prices low. Any price increases in our meat department will only reflect the amount our costs have risen.
"We know these are hard times and many are feeling the effects. We feel it is our responsibility to continue to support those in need. One way to do this is by supporting local food banks that can provide food directly to those who need it most. Given the unknown duration and overall impact of this crisis, Wegmans has donated $4 million across all our partner food banks and continues to support our community partners directly, as needed."
Despite the pandemic, Wegmans is moving forward to open its 102nd store, in Cary, N.C., on Aug. 2. A spokesperson for Wegmans confirmed to a Raleigh newspaper that construction of a 103,000-square foot store in the Twin Lakes Center in West Cary is proceeding as planned.
Family-owned Wegmans operates 101 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company is No. 36 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in the United States.