N.B. food prices rising

New Brunswick food businesses are starting to pass on the increased costs of goods to consumers as global food prices continue to rise.
Mandy Fillmore said the grocery store she co-owns has had to lay off staff to stay competitive. (CBC)

New Brunswick food businesses are starting to pass on the increased costs of goods to consumers as global food prices continue to rise.

A recent Statistics Canada report said Canadian food prices are up compared to 2010, especially for items such as cooking oil, bread, meat and fresh produce.

In February, Tim Hortons announced price hikes due to a higher cost for coffee beans, wheat and cooking oil. A large coffee will cost seven cents more when the increase takes effect, though it's unclear when that will be.

One New Brunswick bakery is looking at cutting costs while an independent grocery store has already cut staff and services in an attempt to stay afloat.

Karen Silliker, owner of the Cake Box in Moncton, said the price of cocoa and sugar are way up and she's not sure what's in store for her business if they keep climbing.

"I don't know. We're just going to have to see how far it goes. Maybe we'll start making more things with less chocolate, but chocolate is what people want," she said.

"Cocoa has more than doubled [in price]. It's like gold. Sugar is really crazy; it has been for awhile, and it went up and basically stayed up. Flour, too, to a certain extent."

Silliker said she is looking at raising some of her prices in the coming weeks, something many other restaurants and bakeries have already done.

Mandy Fillmore, co-owner of the Saint John independent grocery store On the Vine, said the increased food prices have forced her company to lay off staff and close its in-house bakery.

"It was a complete restructure for us. We had to go back like we did on the first day we opened and start from ground zero," she said.

Hard on fixed incomes

Those increased prices eventually make it down to the pocket books of people, such as Elizabeth Garnett, a senior living on a fixed income in Saint John. She said she makes lots of casseroles, preserves and stews to stretch her food dollars.

"[In] other words, I wouldn't be eating, because the food prices are skyrocketing," Garnett said. "You pay your rent, your hydro, your phone and your cable and you've got nothing left."

David Wilkes of the Retail Council of Canada said the increase in food prices is caused by rising demand from emerging economies and the use of some food crops for fuel. Wilkes said consumers will continue to pay more. 

"Commodities like wheat — so that would be bread, for example — corn and barley. There's a wide range of products. Cereals is another example," he said.

Wilkes said the competitive nature of the grocery industry will shield Canadians from some increases, but it won't totally protect consumers.