In ambush behind energy prices, inflation has finally reached our plates. It reached 9.9% in September according to INSEE, against 7.9% in August, and could even come close to 12% by the end of the year. Rise in the price of agricultural raw materials, transport, packaging or wages, the phenomena at work are generally known, with however great disparities depending on the product.
Big differences depending on the products
According to the IRI panelist, who surveys hundreds of thousands of products every month, frozen meats increased by 30% in September over one year, compared to 23% for fresh products, 21% for pasta, 17% for butter, oil, mustard, coffee, or even 15% for eggs. “Of course, the explanation for frozen foods is quite simple since the freezing process is very energy intensive. But there are also many sectoral phenomena at work, such as the shortage of mustard seed, attributable to the Canadian drought of the summer of 2021”, explains Emily Mayer, at IRI.
Among professionals, red meat is often referred to as “legged grain” because of the amount of roughage it takes to feed a cow. With the war in Ukraine, which led to a surge in wheat prices, it was logically one of the products most penalized by the conflict, while, contrary to what one might imagine, pasta produced from durum wheat (and not soft wheat) were much more affected by the summer 2021 drought than by the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis.
Inflation felt even more important
Still, in terms of prices, the consumer’s perception is not always that of the averages provided by INSEE. It is to measure this gap between real inflation and perceived inflation that the specialist in mass distribution and agri-food Olivier Dauvers has set up since January 1, 2022 an indicator on the 150 most emblematic products of the consumption of the French, “and on which our eyes are focused on the shelves”.
Coca, Nutella, Camembert president… in nine months, these products would have increased by 13%, against the 9.9% over one year flashed by INSEE. There again, there were considerable differences: a victim of the increase in production costs but also of avian flu, Fleury Michon chicken breast increased by 43% over the period. Charal ground beef, 38%. And Fruit d’Or sunflower oil, 36%.
“Apart from cyclical or sectoral explanations, it should also be borne in mind that inflationary periods can be synonymous with pricing opportunism for certain companies, which take advantage of generalized increases to increase their margins”, believes Olivier Dauvers. Benefiting from the postponement of sunflower oils, some olive oils have exploded this year (+25% for Puget oil), while others have barely progressed. Against the current, other products such as Nutella cookies posted price cuts, proof this time that there must have been a lot of fat on the margins…
Acceleration expected at the end of the year
Be that as it may, food inflation is not about to subside. It should reach 12% by the end of the year, and could accelerate further in February or March following the mandatory annual negotiations. “Until now the increase in industrial costs did not take into account the increase in energy prices for production, because most of the time industrialists were covered with energy contracts over one or more years. », explains Philippe Goetzmann, agri-food consultant. When these contracts expire, as is the case for many manufacturers at the moment, the increases can be spectacular, presaging new heated negotiations with large retailers.
Proof of the ambient concern, all the players in the food industry met last week to ask the government to cap energy prices, in the same way as individuals. Otherwise, they will be “forced to make households bear the increase”.
For the moment, no case of production disruption has been observed in the sector, unlike heavy industry in particular. But the out-of-stock rate – the percentage of product missing from the shelves – in stores continues to increase. It has gone from 7% before the health crisis to 8.5% today, according to IRI. ” As is, concludes Emily Mayer, it is hard to see how some manufacturers will be able to continue producing without at least reducing their product ranges. »
Particularly expensive food in France
Contrary to popular belief, food is more expensive in France than in many European Union (EU) countries.
According to recent figures published by Eurostat, the price level of food products (on a European average base of 100) was 110 in France in 2021, compared to 105.7 in Italy, 104.5 in Germany and 97.6 in Spain.
In detail, meat would be bought 30% more expensive than in the rest of the EU, and fruit and vegetables 20% more.
Is this the counterpart of these high prices? Food prices have increased less in France than in our European neighbours: between January and August, they increased by 8% in France and 10% in the EU.