By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Food costs rising
Bacon, eggs , coffee among items affected
Leigh-Ann Havins grinds coffee at JitterMugs in Cumming. A poor Brazilian harvest is being blamed for a 15 percent increase in the cost of coffee beans. - photo by Autumn McBride

It’s a difficult time for breakfast lovers.

From bad weather in Brazil and Russia to low demand and recalls in the U.S., the prices of several popular food items are on the rise. Among them bacon, eggs, coffee and wheat.

“The bacon we were buying, it’s gone up almost $1 a pound,” said John Will, owner of Ferguson’s Meat Market. “We were paying about $2 a pound and it’s up to $2.80.”

Will said he’s raised the price a little on wholesale buyers, but the Matt Highway store’s thick-cut bacon strips still are $3.99 a pound.

“We haven’t gone up on it here in the store yet, although we will,” he said. “We’ll have to raise the price, and then we’ll probably offer a 5-pound bulk special or something to try to keep the volume going."

Brenda Reid, spokeswoman for Publix, said the supermarket chain’s suppliers had reported a drop in the number of pigs based on last year’s demand. This year, however, demand has risen, particularly with restaurants, “which is why the price is going up.”

“However as the litters are able to replenish, we should see that level back off,” she said.

Russia has experienced a bad wheat crop this year. As a result, Reid said, the worldwide demand "went up in anticipation of there being a shortage of supply.”

But wheat is trickier than bacon. Used in cereal, cookies, breads and many other products, it’s up to each company to decide whether to raise the price of their products, Reid said.

“We’ve received word from some of our suppliers that their bread will be going up,” she said. “However, our private label bread is not going up, and our private label bread is our No. 1 item in the company.”

Ron Freeman, spokesman for Ingles Markets, said other commodities like butter and coffee are also increasing in cost.

“Our vendors will offer assistance in the way of promotions, so there are a lot of things that go into determining what the actual price to the customer is going to be,” he said. “[Suppliers] also mentioned eggs because of the contamination scare.

"That’s increased the purchase of organic and cage-free eggs, and it’s actually caused a little bit of a shortage in those items.”

With about half a billion eggs being recalled nationwide due to a salmonella risk, demand has changed.

Reid said Publix had locked into a contract with its suppliers, which means “we’re not expecting an increase in our private label eggs.”

She noted a poor Brazilian harvest is the major factor in a 15 percent increase in the cost of coffee beans. This season’s shortfall is being modified for next season, but the price may not drop again until the first quarter of 2011.  

It’s a hard hit to Leigh-Ann Havins and her mother, Karen Cornetet, owners of Cumming coffee shop JitterMugs.

“We’re trying to work with our coffee suppliers to keep the price down as much as we can so we don’t have to pass it along,” Havins said. “We haven’t raised our prices or anything at this point. We’re just trying to still keep it as cost effective as we can.”

The increase has been especially difficult on a shop their size, Havins said. Serving up only about five pounds of coffee a day, they're “nothing like Starbucks.”

“But hopefully going through getting into the winter months, when people will buy more hot drinks, maybe the quantity can help keep our prices down,” she said.

Passing increases onto customers is a difficult decision to make, Will said. But there’s only so much of a load a store can take before needing to make some changes.

Usually after Labor Day, the price of Boston butt cuts go down, but they have "remained high.”

Pork loins, country hams and center cut pork chops also are high in price. Though conflicted, Will said he may have to go up if his costs don’t dip soon.

Bacon, one of the highest yielding meats in the shop, has had the sharpest increase, he said.

"It’s one of those items I feel like we were able to get a good markup on and now we’re having to either absorb it or go up,” he said.

“The bacon that we get is a bacon that maybe not every grocery store carries. It’s more of a meat market item, it comes in bulk, and I expect people will still pay it. They still pay for gas."