The return to normality of supermarkets: almost full shelves but more expensive products | Economy

Shopping basket with basic products in a supermarket in Madrid.
Shopping basket with basic products in a supermarket in Madrid.Victor Sainz

After a few weeks sailing against the current, supermarkets envision a return to normality. The transporters’ strike and the war in Ukraine put the food distribution chain on the ropes, which was also affected by the stockpiling of some consumers, who, fearing shortages, did not hesitate to fill the shopping basket. Milk, oil, flour, meat and fish were some of the fastest selling products on store shelves. After the storm, most of the genre now arrives normally in the warehouses of the supermarkets. However, customers perceive that prices are more expensive than ever, and more and more people go to various chains to take advantage of discounts and not have to scratch their pockets.

A week after all transporters have suspended the strike, supply cuts are no longer common. Of course, in some corridors there is still a shortage of certain items. In the Carrefour de Cuatro Caminos in Madrid, there is still no trace of the half-liter milk cartons, which in this supermarket until last month were found without too much difficulty. Private labels dominate the shelves of this product and make up for the lack of others. From Pascual, for example, there are only bottles of lactose-free milk left and it is not known when the whole or skimmed milk will arrive at the store. “We still have some supply problems,” confesses a replenisher as she records the missing products on a piece of paper. In fact, the poster that justified the shortage of supplies during the transport strike has not yet been removed: “We hope to normalize the situation as soon as possible. Sorry for the inconvenience,” she reads.

Similarly, some more special types of rice are still hard to find: Thai, basmati and integral the clients have already taken all the packages that arrived. Of course, the situation is not comparable to two weeks ago, when many corridors were more empty than full. In other chains in the same Madrid neighborhood, the scenario is similar. At Aldi, the packages of flour are about to run out and this Monday Lidl has run out of Emmental and smoked bacon. However, except for a few specific breaks, consumers are no longer forced to play the wheel of luck when trying new products, since, in most cases, they find what they are looking for.

price increases

On the other hand, the escalation of prices continues to be a constant. The observatory of the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), which collects the rates of 156 products in nine Spanish supermarket chains, has detected an average increase of 9.4% in the cost of the shopping basket during the last year . An increase that has not occurred uniformly. Between December and March, the average price increase was 5.1%, which accounts for the transfer of the rise in energy costs to product prices.

The rise does not affect the entire genre equally. According to data from the OCU, the products that have increased their cost the most have been white-label mild olive oil (53.6%), white-label sunflower oil (49.3%), dishwasher (49.1%) and margarine (41.5%). Next, with increases between 30 and 40%, are some pasta products, bananas from the Canary Islands and sliced ​​salmon.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.


Changes of companies and consumers

The increases that most bother consumers are those that affect food products. Jerusalem Torra works in a center for the elderly in Barcelona, ​​and every time she makes a purchase, she saves the receipts to identify the items that are more expensive. In just one month, peach juice has increased by 15 cents, a liter of milk by 20 cents, while muffins have tripled in price. Although for his work he has to buy the same, when it comes to filling his own shopping cart he has changed some habits to try to avoid inflation. “I try to consume more frozen products, and I only buy fish when it is on sale. I have also rediscovered spoon dishes: lentils, stews, rice dishes, as was done in the past”, he points out.

For his part, Javier Carracedo, who usually goes to various supermarkets in Zaragoza, has witnessed the play of the reduflation, a commercial strategy applied by some chains to hide the increase in the price of the shopping basket. “A bag of spinach is still 95 cents, but now it’s 200 grams less,” he says. The OCU warns that spending on the purchase of an average home could increase by more than 500 euros per year as a result of rising food prices. It is not surprising that consumers are willing to change their habits or visit more than one point of sale in search of opportunities. According to a study by the Association of Consumer Goods Companies and Manufacturers (Aecoc), at the start of the pandemic, 78% of consumers made all their food and consumer purchases in a single establishment, something that currently only 45% do. of buyers. The watch on the prices of the shopping basket seems higher than ever.

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