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Grocery inflation flat in February, up 1% for the year.png Getty Images

Grocery inflation flat in February, up 1% for the year

Prices for beef, baked goods remain high vs. a year ago; dairy prices fall

Grocery-price inflation continues to abate, according to Consumer Price Index data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prices overall for food at home were flat in February on a month-to-month basis, and up 1% for the 12-month period, with some key categories recording price declines for the past year. Beef prices remain elevated, however, and egg prices ticked up in February after a double-digit decline during the past year.

Restaurant prices have remained higher than a year ago, although they were basically flat in February. Inflation on food away from home was up 0.1% month-to-month and 4.5% for the 12-month span, driving overall food inflation up 2.2% for the full year. The Consumer Price Index for all items was up 3.2% for the year.

Among food-at-home categories, prices for most categories were basically flat on a month-to-month basis, although cereals and bakery products showed a 0.5% gain, while dairy and related products were down 0.6%, both seasonally adjusted.

For the full year, dairy was down 1.8%, and meats, poultry, fish and eggs were down 0.5%. Other major categories ranged from a 0.8% increase for fruits and vegetables to a 2.3% increase for nonalcoholic beverages.

Individual grocery categories that saw the biggest gains on a month-to-month basis included eggs, which were up 5.8% in February, but down 17% for the 12-month span — the largest decline of any food category measured.

Prices on several meat categories remained high on a year-over-year basis, including beef and veal (up 7.4%), ground beef (up 5.9%), beef roasts (up 9.2%), beef steaks (up 8.1%), and other beef and veal (up 6.4%).

Other meat, poultry, and seafood categories showed declines for the full 12-month span, including pork (down 1.6%), chicken (down 0.4%), and fish and seafood (down 3.9%).

Bakery items that remained the highest on a 12-month basis included crackers, bread, and cracker products (up 4.9%), and frozen and refrigerated bakery products, pies, tarts, and turnovers (up 3.8%).

“As we look at prices for early 2024, there is welcome news for consumers as February CPI data suggests a continued easing of inflation,” said Andy Harig, VP of tax, trade, sustainability, and policy development at FMI – The Food Marketing Institute. “On a year-over-year basis, inflation for food at home was 1%, a strong figure that should encourage consumers.”

He added that work still needs to be done to reduce overall inflation.

“Our association remains dedicated to collaborating with the federal government to sustain the decline in the inflation rate,” Harig said.

The ongoing decline in food-at-home inflation follows criticism of food pricing from President Biden, who scolded CPG companies for “shrinkflation” practices during last week’s State of the Union address, and from other political leaders.

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