It wasn't so long back that I wrote a fairly controversial statement. To be exact, I said, "just for the record, I believe the government's account of inflation about as far as I can throw a piano. Anyone that has been to the grocery store over the past 12 months will tell you that inflation is here in a big way already."
I would like to say it feels good to be correct, but I would be lying about how I feel. What I really feel is saddened. Saddened that most Americans will continue to do the same thing over and over again, never even worrying about how more and more of their money gets taken away from them by the government each year.
Here is the article proving I was correct.
Corporate America’s new dilemma: raising prices to cover higher transport costs
ReutersFebruary 26, 2018
FILE PHOTO: Freight trucks are driven on the Fisher freeway in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., March 27, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo
MoreBy Eric M. Johnson and Chris Prentice
SEATTLE/BOCA RATON, Fla. (Reuters) - The drive for cost cuts and higher margins at U.S. trucking and railroad operators is pinching their biggest customers, forcing the likes of General Mills Inc (GIS.N) and Hormel Foods Corp (HRL.N) to spend more on deliveries and consider raising their own prices as a way to pass along the costs.
Interviews with executives at 10 companies across the food, consumer goods and commodities sectors reveal that many are grappling with how to defend their profit margins as transportation costs climb at nearly double the inflation rate.
Two executives told Reuters their companies do plan to raise prices, though they would not divulge by how much. A third said it was discussing prospective price increases with retailers.
The prospect of higher prices on chicken, cereal and snacks costs comes as inflation emerged as a more distinct threat in recent weeks. The U.S. Labor Department reported earlier this month that underlying consumer prices in January posted their biggest gain in more than a year.
As U.S. economic growth has revved up, railroads and truck fleets have not expanded capacity to keep pace - a decision applauded by Wall Street. Shares of CSX Corp (CSX.O), Norfolk Southern (NSC.N), and Union Pacific Corp (UNP.N) have risen an average 22 percent over the past year as they cut headcount, locomotives and rail cars, and lengthened trains to lower expenses and raise margins.
Quickening economic growth, a shortage of drivers and reduced capacity, and higher fuel prices have driven up transportation costs, prompting some companies to threaten to raise prices on goods ranging from chicken to cereal.
For a graphic, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2oth2Zx
Cream of Wheat maker B&G Foods Inc (BGS.N), Cheerios maker General Mills and Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), owner of Hillshire Farms brand and Jimmy Dean sausage, said they will pass along higher freight costs to their customers.
Tyson Chief Executive Officer Tom Hayes told Reuters in an interview that its price increases "should be in place for the second half” of its fiscal year, and that it has begun negotiating price increases with retailers and food service operators. The company declined to specify how much its freight costs increased in recent months, but a spokesman said they are up between 10 to 15 percent for the total industry.
General Mills informed convenience store and food service customers of the price increases directly, a spokeswoman told Reuters in an emailed statement, declining to provide specifics. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Harmening cited logistic costs and wage inflation as factors.
"It feels to me like an environment that should be beneficial for some pricing,” he said in a presentation at last week’s Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference.
Hormel Foods, the maker of Skippy peanut butter and SPAM, has been talking with retailers about raising prices, according to Chief Executive Jim Snee.
“We don’t believe we’re going to recoup all of our freight cost increases for the balance of the year,” Snee told Reuters in an interview, noting operating margin sank to 13.2 percent, from 15.6 percent due to higher costs - including freight - in the most recent quarter.
Confectionary and snack company Mondelez International Inc (MDLZ.O) halted operations over a weekend late last month at its Toledo, Ohio wheat flour mill - the second-largest flour mill in the United States - because the plant could not get enough rail cars to carry flour to bakeries, a spokeswoman said.
She declined to comment on whether Mondelez would raise prices to cover any higher costs.
A new government regulation for drivers and truck availability are pushing up freight costs at JM Smucker Co (SJM.N). “We anticipate inflationary pressures likely to cause upward price movements in a variety of categories,” Chief Financial Officer Mark Belgya said last week at an analyst conference.
To be sure, transportation costs are just a sliver of the price consumers pay at the grocery store. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates transportation represents just 3.3 cents of every dollar consumers spend.
But an increase in truck rates over the next 12 months implies a 15-to-18 basis point gross margin headwind for U.S. food companies on average, according to Bernstein analyst Alexia Howard.