Yes, grocery prices are higher this holiday season. Here's why.

Samantha Hendrickson
Wisconsin State Farmer
Latest data shows farmers received more of the average food dollar in 2019. Pandemic changes could continue that growth.

If your grocery total is looking a little higher this holiday season than last year's, no, you don't need to check it twice. Groceries are more expensive this year than previous years. 

Most food is 8% more expensive than it was last year and almost 16% more than it was in 2019. In a CNN opinion piece written by Nicholas Bertram, president of The Giant Company, a grocer known to customers as Giant, Martin's, Giant Heirloom Market, Giant Direct and Martin's Direct, Bertram noted that groceries are "at their highest levels" in a decade. 

Some of the most expensive groceries this quarter include meats like steak, pork and chicken, as well as eggs, cereal and baby food. 

Many are attributing these price increases to "shortages" of certain products. However, according to Wisconsin Grocer's Association President Brandon Scholz, it's a little more complicated than just being out of one thing or another. 

"What's interesting is the last four or five months, people have all of a sudden discovered there's a supply chain," Scholz said. "We always kind of took the supply chain for granted because it was efficient... a well-oiled machine. Now that's not what it was, and the primary reason is workforce." 

According to Scholz, most product supply chains currently do not have a fully-staffed, fully-functioning workforce due to COVID-19 pandemic complications and mass workforce resignations nationwide.

And it's not just one part of the supply chain, like the producer. It's the producer, the manufacturer, the seller and everyone in between. Each gear in the supply chain clock is struggling, whether it be with packaging materials, ingredients to make your popular groceries or crop and dairy shortages for farms. 

Some producers are even paying consumers not to hoard their products as they struggle to keep up with demand. Take Philadelphia Cream Cheese, for example. The company is doling out $20 for anyone who agrees not to make a cheesecake this holiday season, and help keep cream cheese on the shelves for everyone.

But it's not just consumers who are seeing price increases. Grocers are also observing more costs, Scholz said. "They're paying higher salary, higher hourly wages, higher benefits and their products cost more. Just about everything is going up one way or another." 

Some products aren't even being made any more, especially as consumer needs changed with the pandemic. When the shelves may return to pre-pandemic products and prices Scholz said, is anyone's guess. 

However, Scholz said he's while products may cost more, producers aren't interested in keeping prices higher, and price stabilization is the goal for many companies. 

In the meantime, Scholz said the best thing consumers can do is make their list, make their budget and not be afraid of trying new substitutions for the products they normally use. 

"Everybody and their brother is conscious of supply, demand and pricing," Scholz said. "So whatever can be done to stabilize prices today, or next year, or whenever it is... no one wants to see price increases go on." 

Samantha Hendrickson can be reached at 414-223-5383 or shendrickson@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @samanthajhendr.