According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Guelph, overall food prices in Canada are expected to increase in 2013 between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent. More concerning is that beef and pork products are expected to see the highest increases at 4.5 to 6.5 per cent.
If the hike comes to fruition as researchers predict, Whistler food retailers and restaurants may be forced to reflect the increase in their menu and grocery prices. This could ultimately mean visitors and local families will be paying more.
“On average, a family of four living in Whistler spends just over $10,000 on food per year. If overall prices were to increase up to 3.5 per cent, families could be paying an additional $350 more per year on groceries,” said Dan Wilson, sustainability planner at the Whistler Centre for Sustainability. “This figure is based on families purchasing lower cost brands, so this number could be even higher for families who indulge in more premium brands.”
According to Wilson, food prices in Whistler are already between five to 10 per cent more expensive than prices for the same brands in Vancouver. He says it’s unclear why Whistlerites already pay a premium for food. Factors that could be an influence are the cost of shipping food from Vancouver to Whistler, heating costs at grocery stores, the high overhead costs of doing business in the resort or tourist pricing.
The research team behind the University of Guelph study, have a history of successful predictions. Last year’s overall food prices increased by only one per cent, in line with their previous report, which predicted the increase would be less than two per cent.
They base their research on a number of combined factors, including climate, economic risks and energy costs. They attribute much of 2013 rising prices to the massive drought that the U.S. midwest suffered this year.
“According to our research, retail food prices are expected to grow faster than inflation and to increase steadily in the coming years,” said Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of research and graduate studies in Guelph’s College of Management and Economics.
“The best way to mitigate the rise is to become better food waste managers. Not only that, buy what you need and don’t show up to a grocery store feeling hungry. Consumers should become more creative with leftovers, particularly at this time of year when people are hosting lots of social gatherings with family and friends.”
To combat rising prices, local Whistler companies are getting creative on how they purchase their goods
“Increasing food prices always affect us,” explained Wayne Catz, owner operator of Zoggs, Moguls, Gone Bakery, Lift Coffee Co., and the food and beverage supplier for University of Squamish. “For the most part, I’ve been biting the bullet and not raising my prices. Instead, I have found ways to cut costs by changing the mix of meat that I’m buying and focusing on more secondary cuts. Preliminary butchering of my beef, lamb and chicken is done in Vancouver to meet health standards. Lately I have started to ship up the remainder of the carcass and butcher the rest of the meat myself. That way I avoid paying the extra butchering fee. That being said, a 6.5 per cent increase in meat is a lot to contend with.”
Catz also suggested that restaurants in Whistler can team up and buy more products in bulk.
While the costs of beef, pork and grains is expected to see a hike in 2013, the news is not all bad, especially for vegetarians. Researchers don’t expect a significant increase in the cost of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Prices went down 8.3 per cent last year for fruits and vegetables and Charlebois’ team expects prices to increase just slightly in 2013.