Jun 14, 2022 - Podcasts

Food costs are changing how we shop and eat

The cost of food in grocery stores is up 11.9% from last year, according to the latest release of inflation numbers. That’s the largest increase since April 1979, and because of those skyrocketing food prices Americans are buying more store brands, and cutting down on costly meat and produce.

  • Plus, rising tensions outside and inside the Supreme Court
  • And, damning testimony from Trump’s inner circle.

Guests: Axios' Emily Peck, Sam Baker and Mike Allen.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Tuesday, June 14th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today: rising tensions outside AND inside the supreme court. Plus: damning testimony from Trump’s inner circle. But first, today’s One Big Thing: how spiking food costs are affecting how we shop and eat.

NIALA: The cost of food in grocery stores is up 11.9% from last year. That's according to the latest release of inflation numbers, and it's the largest increase since April of 1979. Now those skyrocketing food prices are changing the way we eat and shop. Americans are buying more store brands and cutting down on costly meat and produce. Here to explain what's going on is Axios markets reporter Emily Peck. Hi Emily!


NIALA: So what food items are particularly expensive right now, Emily?

EMILY: First of all, everything is more expensive now, but listeners know this. According to the latest inflation numbers, the most inflationary items in the grocery store right now would be eggs. Egg prices are up 32% year over year. It's to the point where you would you notice. I noticed because I have a family and we go through a lot of eggs. They're always so cheap, but now I see they're not so cheap anymore. 32 percent, um, that's in part to a bird flu outbreak earlier in the year that killed about 6% of commercial egg-laying chickens. Next on the list, fats and oils up 16.9%, due to the war in Ukraine. And you think, “fats and oils? Well, that's only a small part of my grocery store bill,” but those costs get added into other kinds of processed foods like the cereal you buy, the bread you buy and on and on. Um, poultry is up 16% and milk also around 16%

NIALA: I think a lot of people are wondering if companies are using this moment as an excuse to sort of engage in price gouging?

EMILY: What I can say about grocery stores and food prices is that grocery stores and the companies that put the items on the shelves of the grocery stores, they really don't want to raise prices very much. Customers in grocery stores are very price sensitive. That's why you see a lot of shrink-flation. Companies, you know, just give you less cereal, less chips, less rice, less quinoa in the package you normally buy, hoping like you might not notice and the price might not even change. It's hard to really tease out from the data is is this price gouging necessarily? I don't think anyone can give you that hard evidence. Economists are currently debating this and it gets very heated on the twitters I will say.

NIALA: And of course, this is also leading to a change in consumer behavior. What are we seeing there ?

EMILY: A lot of it's, I mean, what you would expect, people are deal hunting. They're switching from name brands to generics. A big thing grocery analysts tell me is that people just buy less of things. So instead of buying a family pack of chicken thighs, you buy like a regular pack of chicken thighs and you stretch in other ways at mealtime.

Some people buying half gallons of milk instead of full gallons of milk. Also a common theme is fewer trips to the store right? Cause that's gas prices colliding with food prices.

NIALA: So Emily, how are these food price increases playing into consumer sentiment for this summer?

EMILY: Consumer sentiment right now is at record lows. There was the University of Michigan sentiment survey that was released last week and it was at an all-time low. People are gloomy, and this is definitely playing a role. I mean you buy your usual basket of stuff and you get real sticker shock when you go and check out, it's...it's pretty wild. And for some people it's more than that for example, increased lines at food banks. So this is a real and serious issue.

NIALA: Emily Peck is Axios’ markets correspondent. Thanks, Emily.

EMILY: Thank you.

NIALA: And we would love to hear from you about what your concerns are going into the summer when you're thinking particularly about prices. And we know that there's a lot of gloomy news around inflation and travel and costs for the summer. So if you want to share what you're excited about, we'd love to hear that too.

NIALA: In a moment, we’re back with details on turmoil at the US Supreme Court.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Abortion rights protestors, blockaded intersections near the US Supreme court yesterday with the court set to rule soon on the constitutionality of a 15 week abortion ban in Mississippi. That decision could overturn Roe vs.

Wade. But since Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on the case was leaked last month, the court has also been doing an internal investigation which has led to turmoil behind the scenes at the court. Axios editor Sam Baker has more on all of this. Hey Sam.

SAM BAKER: Good morning Niala.

NIALA: What do we know about the investigation to the source of this draft opinion leak?

SAM: We know enough to know that it does not seem like a happy time, inside the Supreme Court. We've seen some reporting that this is a very serious investigation that's being led by the marshal of the Supreme Court. Clerks are maybe being asked to, turn over their phones or at least provide some of the information that would be stored on their phones. They're looking at who would have had access to a draft opinion. So, you know, that's always a tense situation. And then we've seen some signs that this is maybe bleeding into what the justices have always presented as, as a very cordial working relationship. It seems like things are, are maybe getting a little frosty now.

NIALA: What signs are we seeing of that?

SAM: We've seen Justice Thomas he made some, some public comments recently, to the effect of his trust in his colleagues wasn't what it used to be. One source told NPR’s Nina Totenberg, that “the place sounds like it's imploding.”

NIALA: And outside the court, as we were talking about, there were protests yesterday in anticipation of a decision expected on Dobbs versus Jackson Women's Health Organization. Last week, we heard about the arrest of a man who had a plot to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

How are authorities preparing for this heated decision?

SAM: Yeah so at the court itself where this activity is usually concentrated at the end of a term, no matter what the big case is, uh, we have seen fences go up. Uh, I live relatively close by, it's the insurrection fence, uh, it's back in anticipation of more protests than usual. And then as you said, we've seen, some of this spill over into the Justices homes and that disturbing incident last week. So there's been some talk about whether the Justices need additional security. They are typically, you know, they don't have full-time secret service details, like we're used to seeing around the president or anything like that. But there's obviously some sort of need there.

NIALA: Sam Baker is Axios’ resident Supreme Court expert. Thanks Sam.

SAM: Thanks Niala.

BILL BARR: I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with, uh, with, uh, he’s become detached from reality.

Attorney General Bill Barr there talking about former President Trump’s false claim that he won the 2020 presidential election. Barr was one of several members of Trump’s inner circle that testified yesterday in the second day of a round of public hearings from the House Jan 6 Committee. I asked Axios co-founder Mike Allen to share his analysis of yesterday.

MIKE ALLEN: Niala this hearing was so hot some people thought this should have been the one on prime time. These were true Trump insiders, people used to work for him, saying flatly he was full of it about the election. In deposition clips played by the committee, Bill Barr, Trump's former Attorney General, called Trump's claims BS, idiotic, stupid, complete nonsense, crazy stuff.

BARR: I went into this and would, you know, tell them how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts are.

MIKE: Also in clips played by the committee, Bill Stepien, who was Trump's campaign manager, said there were two teams advising Trump after the election. And Stepien said he was on “team normal.” And Niala behind the scenes, less than an hour before the hearing was supposed to begin, the committee announced Bill Stepien wasn't able to appear live. It turned out his wife had gone into labor. The committee had teed up clips to use, depending on what Stephien said during his live testimony. Basically, if they caught him in something. The committee quickly rewrote the hearing script to play those clips without him there. Niala it was history on the fly.

NIALA: That’s Axios Co-Founder - and author of AM newsletter - Mike Allen. And that’s all from us today – text me your feedback and story ideas: I’m at (202) 918-4893. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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