Consumer Food Prices Climbed 30% in Five Years

Inflation was 16% and salaries barely rose, but average cost of a home-cooked meal up by 30% over past five years; rise in products including eggs and milk.

Israeli consumers may have gone to war against cottage cheese prices, which rose tens of percent over the past few years; but cottage is far from the only staple that rose in price - and many other food products have seen their prices climb even faster.

The average cost of a plain home-cooked meal has risen some 30% over the past five years, and that includes products still under price supervision such as eggs and milk.

While the price of any single product may have only gone up a few shekels, altogether household food bills have risen hundreds of shekels a month. TheMarker conducted a survey of how much the cost of homemade meals has gone up since 2006, using price comparisons from the Pricesal price comparison shopping website.

A basic basket of 12 breakfast food items including cornflakes, eggs and cheese went up in price from NIS 98 in 2006 to NIS 134 today, a 36% jump. The biggest price hikes were for hard yellow cheeses from Tnuva, which went up 50% from NIS 10 to NIS 15. Strauss's Yotvata chocolate milk climbed in price from NIS 14 to NIS 20.

In comparison, the consumer price index has risen 16.7% over the past five years.

As to lunch menus, the price hikes were similar but a little lower: Only 26%. Our lunch menues included such staples as rice, chicken schnitzel, macaroni and soft drinks. The basic lunch basket in 2006 cost NIS 123.50, and today it is NIS 155.70. The products that took the biggest price jumps were rice, up 44%; and macaroni, which rose 40% in price.

The problem is that salaries have not risen anywhere near as fast, said Tamir Ben Shahar of the Czamanski Ben Shahar economic consulting firm. "People spend the same amount on their monthly shopping, but for the same money they buy alternative products at a lower price or have to make do with a smaller amount of goods," he said.

Since Israelis add fruits and vegetales to almost every meal, we also examined what happened to fruit and veg prices over the past five years. This examination, based on figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, shows similar increases of tens of percent.

The food manufacturers blame the rising prices on world prices for raw materials, adding that the consumer price is set by the supermarket chains and other retailers.

Unilever, whose Telma cornflakes and Mazola margarine are now 35% and 27% more expensive respectively, said the company has absorbed part of the increased costs in raw materials. Unilever said they have increased the price of cornflakes by only 15% in that period, and the rest of the increase has gone elsewhere, even though corn prices have risen by almost 80% over the same period. Unilever explained that the price of sunflower oil has climbed 85% over the past five years, and the oil is the major component in Mazola margarine.

A number of other products which jumped in price were Starkist tuna, which is now 44.8% more expensive than in 2006, peaches now cost 56.7% more, and of course cottage cheese, which is 48.3% more.

Osem's spaghetti rose over 40% in price since 2006 and its ketchup is 26.3% pricier. Osem said the prices it charges the supermarket chains have risen only slightly, much less than inflation - and when flour prices went down, the company lowered pasta prices.

Strauss declined to comment, saying only that any price hikes were unavoidable due to the rise in local and world costs.