Those fresh soft pretzels that cost 75 cents last summer? You’ll need more than a buck.
Cheesesteaks — real ones that went for almost $10 — will now set you back $12. Maybe $15, soon.
Six-inch Shortis at Wawa — the McDonald’s of hoagies — have risen about 60 cents to $5, about what you’d pay for a Big Mac.
And your Thanksgiving turkey will likely cost at least 10% more than last year’s.
Where will it end?
“I’m a wreck,” because of inflation, said John Bucci, owner of the award-winning John’s Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue in South Philly, after raising his base sandwich price to $12 on Thursday, from $11.75 last week, and $9.75, pre-pandemic. “I’m ready for a nervous breakdown.
“Roast pork was 89 cents a pound pre pandemic, now it’s $1.89,” Bucci said. “Cheese, onions, more than double. Chicken steaks up to $3.65 a pound. Steak is way over $5 a pound.
“I put three-quarters of a pound of meat on my sandwiches,” he added. “We’re already at $7, without the wrapper, the labor, the store costs. Dude, I’m losing my mind.”
Bucci had to close earlier this month for lack of workers. He reopened the next day with friends and family helping out.
Does this go beyond the familiar, cyclical spike in meat prices? “This time, it’s everything going up,” Bucci said, sounding on the verge of tears. “Wrappers. Ketchup. Cleaning detergent.”
Here’s how skyrocketing inflation is hitting some of the Philly region’s favorite foods.
National inflation woes
Inflation hit a 30-year high of 6.2% for the 12-month period ending on Halloween, driven by new and used cars, furniture, rent, and health care. Those prices rose slightly less — 5.4% — in Mid-Atlantic states.
But that’s without food and energy prices, which have been soaring. Food prices for both groceries and dining out have surged by the most in decades.
And distributors to independent local stores such as John’s Roast Pork, beset by steep increases in fuel and driver shortages, are jacking up prices.
Pretzels, turkeys, and hoagies
At Philly Pretzel Factory in Boothwyn, in Delaware County, pretzels that were five for $3.75 in June are now five for $5.25. Asked why so much, one clerk apologized and sold a single for $1 — a nickel discount. His coworker pointed out that gasoline has risen even faster this year, jumping almost 50% in October from a year ago.
Jaindl Farms, the Lehigh Valley-based turkey grower, has had to raise prices by about 10% to 12% — to $2.39 per pound retail for its Heritage birds, or $2.79 per pound for top-selling antibiotic-free organic turkeys, said Dave Jaindl, who runs the family-owned national business..
“Grains, proteins, labor, fuels, trucking, all the input costs, are up 15% to 20%,” he said, so the farm has cut its profits to keep prices from jumping further. Jaindl expects costs to “stabilize” with smaller increases next year.
» READ MORE: The best cheesesteaks to eat in Philly right now
Sliced deli turkey at the ShopRite on Concord Pike between Chadds Ford and Wilmington listed Thursday at $10.99 a pound, up from $8.99 in the summer of 2020. But pinto beans are still $1 a pound, the same as last year, at Family Dollar in Boothwyn.
At Wawa on Concord Pike, a six-inch Shorti hoagie that listed for $4.39 over the summer — and $4 during the last pre-pandemic summer Hoagiefest — now starts at $4.99.
Costs “have risen, in some cases rather dramatically,” said Lori Doyle, a Wawa spokesperson. She said Wawa prices remain “competitive.”
Not all Philly icons are boosting prices. Amoroso’s club-sized rolls, baked in South Jersey, are still six for $3.99 at ShopRite.
Tastykakes, snacks, and soup
And Tastykake Krimpets, baked at Flowers Foods’ partly automated plant in South Philadelphia, are still “$2.99 for a six-pack,” same as before the pandemic, said Robert Costello, a Huntingdon Valley money manager who tracks local food company profits and prices.
Packaged fresh snacks are “a cutthroat business,” he added, contrasting Tastykake’s hold-the-line pricing with sharp increases for Hershey’s longer-shelf-life chocolates.
The potato-chip and snacks maker Herr’s, like its rivals, “has been hit with significant cost increases,” and has made “some modest price increases to help offset those costs,” Ramiro Fernandez, CEO of the Chester County-based firm, said in a statement.
Camden-based Campbell Soup described a similar process. “We have raised prices across our portfolio, in response to the broad-based increase in input costs, such as ingredients, packaging, and transportation,” said Amanda Pisano, spokesperson for Campbell, which owns Snyder’s salty snacks and Lance’s crackers.
While federal officials and company owners say labor shortages, rising wages, and higher fuel costs have disproportionally boosted costs for owners who depend on frequent deliveries, prices for some basic industrial commodities such as paint and steel are also spiking.
For example, the Philadelphia-based specialty-steel maker Carpenter Technologies, which had been forced to lay off workers when the pandemic temporarily cut sales last year, raised prices on its specialty-alloy products on Nov. 8, for the second time this year. The latest increase of 6% to 8% on new orders follows a 6% to 9% increase in May.
In a conference call with investors last month, chief executive Tony Thene partly blamed what he described as short-term kinks in the supply chain. But he said he was confident that demand will remain strong from auto, truck, boat, and plane makers, as orders pick up from a world still recovering from pandemic shutdowns.
With many costs going up, at least one small-business owner says she’s used to holding down prices for a competitive edge.
“We have recently picked up several new clients that fired their old commercial cleaning vendors because workers stopped showing up,” said Eriselda Brozzetti, president of Philadelphia-based Hi Shine Cleaning Services.
Wages in the cleaning business are up, she said, “but we have always compensated our workers well, and have not had any issues with retention, so we have not found it necessary to raise prices.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. See all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.