US food inflation eased again last month, with further relief for consumers cooking at home while the cost of eating out rose.
Overall food prices measured by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index rose 8.5% in the 12 months through March, extending a retreat from a peak of 11.4% reached last August. Food costs have now cooled for seven consecutive months, with price increases softening from 9.5% in February and 10.1% in January.
The cost of a US grocery shop saw the largest pullback, with prices up 8.4% last month, compared to 10% in February. However, the expense to eat out in a restaurant or grab a takeaway edged up to 8.8% on an annualised basis, from 8.4%.
Nonetheless, cereals and bakery prices were still 13.6% higher in March than they were 12 months ago and non-alcoholic beverages were 11.3% more costly. The price of dairy products was up 10.7%, and meat, poultry, fish and eggs 4.3%. Fruit and vegetables were 2.5% more expensive.
Beyond food, the all-items consumer price index also shifted down a gear, coming in at 5% in annualised terms, pulling back from the 6% pace in February and 6.4% in the opening month of the year.
Month-on-month, the gauge was up 0.1% from February’s 0.4% increase.
Overall food prices were unchanged in March from a month earlier, but the cost of eating at home actually fell 0.3%, the first decline since September 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today (12 April).
At-home prices also dropped for meat, poultry, fish and eggs, down 1.4%, and fruit and vegetables fell 1.3%. The cost of dairy products decreased 0.1%.
Elsewhere in the month-on-month numbers, cereals and bakery prices were up 0.6% and non-alcoholic beverages 0.2%.
The cost of eating out, or food away from home, rose 0.6% in March from the prior month, the same pace as in February and January.