U.S. consumer prices rose 7% over year-ago levels in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Jan. 12, in the biggest year-over-year jump since June 1982. That beat November's eyebrow-raising 6.8% increase and October's 6.2% spike.
Prices for food at home (grocery prices) rose 6.5% over the course of 2021—that's compared with a 10-year average annual increase of 1.5%, according to the BLS. The same supply-side price pressures affecting grocers affected restaurants, too: Prices for food away from home were up 6% year over year in December, with full-service restaurant prices rising 6.6% in that time and fast-food/fast-casual restaurant prices jumping 8%.
Within grocery, prices in all six food-at-home categories that the BLS tracks rose during the year, although meat, poultry, fish and eggs saw a small reprieve in December (down 0.4% vs. November) from the soaring inflation that dominated the category in 2021. For the full year, prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs were up 12.5% from December 2020 levels.
In December, fresh produce saw the biggest jump in prices on a monthly basis, with fresh fruit prices rising 1.8% over November alone. For the year, fresh fruit prices were up 7.9%.
Other food-at-home subcategories seeing outsized inflation for the year:
- Beef (prices up 18.6% vs. December 2020)
- Pork (up 15.1%)
- Eggs (up 11%)
- Poultry (up 9.5%)
- Fish (up 8.4%, led by fresh fish and seafood)
- Baby food (up 7.9%)
- Sodas and other carbonated drinks (7.4%)
Back in November, market researcher IRI had predicted that inflation for consumer packaged goods (CPG) could run at 8% in the first half of 2022 before moderating to around 4% in the latter half of the year. "We expect people to become much more price-sensitive" in 2022, IRI President of Strategic Analytics KK Davey said at the time, without the boost provided by pandemic assistance programs (including the child tax credit, which expired in December) and with price inflation cutting into rising wages. Prices for shelter, for example, were up 4.1% year over year in December, the BLS noted Jan. 12.
In December, IRI noted that 90% of shoppers polled as part of its latest survey said they were noticing higher prices at the grocery store, with almost half of shoppers (48%) saying that prices recently are much higher. More than 3 in 5 (61%) said they've changed their grocery selections in response.