Canadian Manufacturing

Canadian grocers say inflation and supply chain issues impacting industry

Weston said manufacturers are consolidating production into the highest volume products and putting secondary sizes and flavours on allocation.

November 18, 2021  The Canadian Press

As food manufacturers grapple with rising costs and supply chain issues, two of Canada’s biggest grocers are signalling the potential for higher prices and the spotty availability of some products in the coming months.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Metro Inc. released their latest financial results on Nov. 17, offering a glimpse at the inflationary pressures and labour challenges hitting the grocery industry.

The situation is expected to lead to higher food prices and brief shortages of some specialty products on store shelves, suggesting the pandemic could have a lasting impact on the food industry.

“There is meaningful commodity price pressures … and then there’s labour supply pressure,” Galen G. Weston, Loblaw president and chairman, told analysts during a conference call. “Those two things are creating substantial challenges for our manufacturing base.”

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Weston said manufacturers are consolidating production into the highest volume products and putting secondary sizes and flavours on allocation, managing limited supplies by limiting retailers to finite amounts of some products.

“What customers will be frustrated to see is something’s in stock for a week, and then it’s out of stock for four or five weeks,” said Weston, adding that he expects to see the instability continue for a few more quarters.

The situation is impacting the entire grocery industry in Canada.

Metro CEO Eric La Fleche told financial analysts that some products “continue to be hard to get supplied and to get the quantities that we would like.”

It’s not just grocery store shelves that are expected to be impacted by the pandemic’s ongoing impact. The soaring cost of labour, shipping and commodities are driving up costs for food manufacturers, and many consumer packaged goods companies are seeking price increases.

Statistics Canada said on Nov. 17 that the annual pace of inflation in October rose to 4.7 per cent as the consumer price index posted its largest year-over-year gain since February 2003. The increase followed a 4.4 per cent year-over-year increase in September.

Higher prices could benefit discount grocery chains — such as Food Basics for Metro or No Frills for Loblaw.

But Weston said the “acceleration in inflation rates and the lack of predictability in what inflation is going to look like in the coming months and quarters” makes it difficult to predict any sustained trends.