By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN
A 32-ounce bottle of ketchup went from $4.08 on average the week of May 16, 2022, to $5.22 in the week of May 15, 2023, according to Datasembly, which measures weekly changes in grocery prices at over 150,000 US stores for its Grocery Price Index. That’s a jump of nearly 28%.
Other condiments are also pricey. A 20-ounce bottle of mustard rose about 13% in that time period, and 26-ounce bottles and jars of relish jumped about 12%.
Proteins were more reasonably priced, with beef hot dog prices going up just 3%. And if you like your burgers plain, sans bun, you’re in luck: The price of 80/20 fresh ground beef hamburgers was essentially flat. Together, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, relish, mustard, burgers, hot dogs and, of course, ketchup cost nearly 9% more this year than last.
The price increase shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. Though shoppers have been starting to see some relief in the grocery aisle, food inflation has been consistently outpacing overall inflation.
In the year through April, grocery prices jumped 7.1%, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. In that period, prices overall rose 4.9%.
Some individual categories, like condiments, are up even more than the average increase for groceries.
That may be because of high commodity prices, like sugar and wheat, noted Carman Allison, vice president of thought leadership for North America at NIQ, which also tracks US retail prices.
“I think a lot of manufacturers are still challenged with the cost of ingredients,” Allison said. According to NIQ’s data, consumer packaged goods prices are also outpacing overall inflation. NIQ’s own data shows that in the week through April 30, ketchup prices were up about 14% year-over-year.
Ingredient, labor and fuel prices all factor into the overall costs of consumer packaged goods companies, which make items like ketchup and buns. And some companies have also used inflation as cover to raise their own profits.
Save on meat, splurge on ketchup
Retailers are strategic about pricing ahead of holidays. They may offer discounts on some items, like hot dogs, while leaving others, like ketchup, at full price.
“They may have a deal on one area of the basket that’s going to potentially drive traffic to the store,” Allison said. Shoppers who come in for one thing will likely “buy all those complementary products.”
In other words, if you come in for a good deal on hot dogs, you’re probably not leaving without ketchup and buns.
Retailers also know that customers are less likely to focus on prices of key barbecue items this weekend.
“As we think about the Memorial Day weekend, a lot of us will be traveling, and there’s gonna be a lot of time pressures,” Allison said.
Some customers who typically check out a few stores for the best deal will opt for the the convenience of a one-stop-shop this time. “There could be a little bit of win there for the retailers,” Allison said.
Another reason ketchup and other condiments are pricey this year? Fancier options.
“Even in the condiment world, there’s been a lot of new innovation and also premiumization,” Allison said. “Manufacturers and also retailers have kept up with a lot of the consumer trends and demands.”
Last summer, Kraft Heinz (KHC) introduced a line of “elevated sauces and spreads,” including infused honeys.
And more innovation is coming: the company recently unveiled a prototype of a machine that will let people mix their own ketchup flavors. Those concoctions may lead to new products on shelves.
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