CANADA – As grocery prices continue to climb, all eyes are on the CEOs of Canada’s grocery stores – but they say high food prices are not their fault.
Several executives testified in Parliament on Wednesday that they are not price-gouging, and denied that they have reaped the rewards of inflation. Those involved included Loblaws president Galen Weston Jr., Metro CEO Eric La Flèche, and Michael Medline, the CEO of Empire Foods. Empire Foods is the parent company of several supermarket chains, including Sobeys, FreshCo, Farm Boy, and Foodland.
“We are not profiting from inflation, it doesn’t matter how many times you say it… it is simply not true,” Medline told the committee.
“Grocery store profits are not the reason for food inflation,” Weston Jr. said.
“Our revenue has gone up, our expenses have gone up, our margins have not gone up, they’ve actually been stable for a long time and food margins have actually declined,” said La Flèche.
However, some chains, like Loblaws, have seen their profits increase. Yet, CEO Galen Weston Jr. says it’s not due to groceries but other products like clothes.
Canadians React to Supermarket CEOs’ Testimony
Across Canada, people are reacting to the executives denying the blame for rising food costs.
“The highlight so far is how quickly the other two Grocery CEOs wanted to make sure Canadians understand it wasn’t them #cdnpoli caught up in Galen Weston Jr.’s Bread Price-Fixing scandal,” tweeted one person.
While others are fixated on Weston.
“But he totally understands how Canadians are struggling with food costs. Like the way a billionaire raised in a family of billionaires would understand,” jested one Canadian.
“I don’t think it should ever be okay — that in Canada, Loblaws earned $520 million in Q4 profits while Canadians turned to food banks in record numbers,” federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted Wednesday.
“Literally just spent almost $100 for less than 10-15 grocery items at Nofrills!! This inflation is ANNOYING and ridiculous!!! This money would have gone a long wayyyyy!! But noooooooooooooooo, these grocery stores don’t want to see us eat healthy for a good price!!!!! Unico Oil was $4.99 is now $12.99, butter that cost 5.99 is now $10.29, freaking flower that cost $8.99 is now $19.99!” said one woman, adding that she finds it’s getting cheaper to purchase premade goods than to buy the ingredients to make them yourself.
While some people are blaming the government for the rising cost of food.
“It’s so funny when I see the people who caused the problem (politicians) blaming people profiting from the problem they caused lol (grocers). Everyone in that room needs personal accountability,” said one person on Instagram.
“Theatrics. They’re all in sleeping in the same bed – the government and the CEOs of these corporations. We’re taxed until we’re blue in the face and these CEOs ram us even further with their prices/greed,” said another, adding that they don’t believe anything will come of the hearings.
In response to the rising cost of food and Wednesday’s testimonies, some people are taking the opportunity to encourage their neighbours to shop local.
The supermarket executives were summoned by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, as part of an investigation into food prices in Canada. This comes as many Canadians continue to struggle to make ends meet during an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.