Stop the Squeeze: If it feels like groceries are more expensive than ever, it’s because they are…

Canadians are known for talking about the weather. But another topic of discussion has gripped our country lately: grocery prices.

Over the past year or so, every discussion with friends, family, or acquaintances has inevitably made its way to how expensive something as basic as putting food on the table has become.

A recent CityNews article comparing grocery prices from 2019 to prices in 2024 shows why we’re all wincing from our grocery bills:

A Loblaw flyer, posted to Reddit, compares prices from 2019 to 2024, detailing a stark spike in prices.

In 2019, a tub of Philadelphia cream cheese was $2.99 for one, or 2 for $5 if it was on sale. Today it’s $5.49. A case of 24 pop cans was $6.47, today the same product is almost $13, meanwhile, a 600-gram pack of natural smoked ham went from $7.99 to $16.49 today — more than double the price five years ago.

Canadians have been reeling from the skyrocketing cost of goods, from groceries to gas to rent and utilities.

“I’ve never had inflation like that in my life and I’m 72,” said one man quoted in the article. Another exasperated customer exclaimed, “I’m speechless. I can’t really say anything, other than where’s my money really going?”

In another recent development, Loblaws had to walk back its plans to end discounts on food nearing its best-before date due to customer pushback. In the grip of the global affordability crisis, many grocery customers have expressed reliance on the deals just to afford their groceries.

Local 401 retail grocery store members have expressed similar sentiments, lamenting the challenges they face covering the essentials, including those they wish to buy in their own stores.

Our members are not alone in that struggle. Calgary was recently named the most expensive city in Canada when it comes to the cost of basic needs (excluding housing).

All the while, reports show that Canadian grocers continue to enjoy record profits.

According to the Centre for Future Work report, grocers have been indulging in healthy margins since mid-2021 as the net income margin on food and beverage retailers has consistently exceeded 3% of total revenues, which is more than double the average margin between 2015 and 2019.

Jim Stanford, an economist with the Centre for Future Work, said the data in the study shows grocers took advantage of the pandemic and its aftermath to increase profits.

Click here to see the full report that was submitted to a House of Commons Committee.

Last year, the Canadian Competition Bureau commented that, “Canadians are recognizing the relationship between a lack of competition and rising prices,” noting that, “Canada’s grocery industry is concentrated,” and recommending that government move to change that.

UFCW Local 401 is preparing to demand that grocery giants like Sobeys and Loblaws share their success with their employees, with contracts set to expire in 2025 and 2026 respectively.

Last year, Local 401 was successful in convincing an arbitrator to award the largest wage increase top-rate and overscale Safeway employees have seen in thirty years. But the decision left too many employees out and workers across the province are hurting from the unmanageable impacts of forty-year-high inflation.

Our union is fighting to Stop the Squeeze on working families and ensure that profitable employers do the right thing by providing their employees with wage increases that meet their needs.