Torontonians shocked to see food prices from 2020 Food Basics flyer

A flyer from a Food Basics store four years ago is causing a stir online after users noted the soaring cost of grocery items since then.

The flyer from 2020 was shared to the Toronto Reddit board over the weekend, revealing prices as low as $2.99 per pound for chicken thighs or drumsticks and a deal for two one-litre containers of chocolate milk for $3. Last January, a five-pack of chicken breast from a Toronto Loblaws caught the ire of many shoppers for it’s nearly $12.25 per pound pricing. 

Over 200 people commented on the thread, seemingly gobsmacked that watermelon had recently cost less than $3 and that two bags of Doritos were on sale for $5.

“I saw a post from someone bringing a Food Basics flyer from 2000,” Juan Castro, who posted the flyer to Reddit, told CTV News Toronto. “I remember when everything was 99 cents [then]. But I said to myself, ‘Will that be possible to get a flyer of, let’s say 2020, around the pandemic.’”

“You were able to get a box of spaghetti [for] less than $2 and that same box costs $6 [now] at the same supermarkets,” Castro said.

Some grocery shoppers who spoke with CTV News shared their thoughts on the four-year-old flyer, expressing how “enticing” the prices are and how they would likely buy more if items hovered at these costs nowadays.

“There’s a combination of feelings,” Castro said. At first, unhappiness because it costs more to pay for quality products like fruit, Castro said, but then secondly, resignation.

“You need to just accept whatever you can get for the money you have.”

Sylvain Charlebois, Senior Director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, told CTV News Toronto in an interview that looking back in time to see how food prices have wavered is important, but ultimately, with inflation, “we should expect food prices to continue to rise.”

“My other observations were that all of the products on the flyer are from CPG companies, major multinationals,” Charlebois said. Some examples of CPG companies(opens in a new tab) – Consumer Packaged Goods – are Nestle, General Mills and PepsiCo.

“I’ve always [found] it quite odd that a lot of people are pointing fingers at grocers.”

Charlebois explained these manufacturers will pay grocers to carry their products, and provide a list of suggested prices for each product. However, he adds it’s up to the grocer to decide what to do with that list.

“Sometimes they actually will go below to offer what we call ‘loss leaders’ to generate more traffic. So, in this case, you’re looking at flyers and a lot of people actually think that flyers are all about products that are on sale – not necessarily,” Charlebois said. “Sometimes you may actually end up seeing products and the intent is to inform the public that they actually carry that product […] So, that’s why you need to do your homework to compare prices as much as possible.”

WHAT CAN SHOPPERS EXPECT THIS YEAR?

Canada’s Food Price Report for 2024, published in December, predicts costs will rise somewhere between 2.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent as inflation continues to moderate.

The report’s researchers predict a family of four will spend about $700 more on food this year compared to 2023, for an annual estimate of $16,297.20.

Charlebois says that since most grocery shoppers aren’t loyal to one company, grocers will need to offer good deals to draw them to their aisles – though not necessarily to the prices seen from four years ago.

“We are expecting many of the products that are being displayed [in that flyer] to be more affordable,” Charlebois said.

There aren’t any factors that could push food prices any higher than they are right now, Charlebois said, adding prices are expected to stabilize over time.

“No matter what Ottawa does, prices are stabilizing.” 

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