Aug 6, 2021 - Food and Drink

Food costs rise for Iowa State Fair vendors and attendees

Illustration of a corn dog over a pattern of stripes, with dollar signs and an upward facing arrow.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Food and drink demand is expected to soar at the fair this year, but ingredients, supplies and staff are all in short supply.

Why it matters: You'll likely have to pay $1-2 more for your favorite foods as rising costs are passed to consumers.

  • And don't expect all your favorite menu items to be there. We've heard it's hard to find everything from pickle spears to Corona.

For example: Cooking oil, a fried food staple, was difficult to track down, said Jada Smith, owner of Jada Concessions.

  • When she found it, the cost for a case more than doubled from the last fair — $25 to $58.
  • "It's outrageous and then the customers are mad at us because we have to raise our prices," Smith said.

Plus: Vendors were required to share their menus and lock-in prices earlier this summer. But they say prices fluctuate every week.

  • Bryan Etchen, owner of Iowa Orchard, said he had to ask fair officials last week if he could raise his prices or risk not attending. (They obliged, he said.)
  • Less than 20% of vendors have approached the fair asking to change their prices this year, according to officials.

The big picture: With SBA loans to pay back and pricier expenses, this year will be about staying afloat, said Helen Little of Campbell's Concessions.

  • "Crazy is the only word I can come up with because it's almost like we just can't get our head around it yet," Little said.

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