Food Shoplifter - ©

As Food Prices Rise, So Does ‘Foodlifting’

‘Foodlifting’ is what I’m calling food theft from grocery stores. In broad daylight, right under the staffs’ noses. And hunger may only be one of the reasons folks stuff meat packs down their pants, and wine,cosmetics and razor blades in their granny bags…

UK high food prices - © 2023 mashed.comFood prices continue high. One cause is soaring ‘foodlifting’ from supermarkets…

The soaring cost of food has hit us all hard. Those in the lower income brackets worst. No wonder the situation has turned some folks into thieves.

Losses troubling market managers

Losses are expected in the food retail sector. But lately, ‘inventory shrinkage’ has become a truly troubling phenomenon. Soaring food prices have been shadowed by soaring thefts.

Now, many supermarket chains are fighting back with new security measures designed to discourage shoplifters.

What they’re doing

You may have noticed that your supermarket – especially if it’s a Loblaw’s – has installed steel fences to separate the entrance from the exit. You may also have been accosted by a store staffer checking your receipts against your purchases on the way out of the store. The stores haven’t said anything about surveillance cameras, but I’ll bet they’ve added more of those, too.

According to Dalhousie University Food Distribution Policy professor Sylvain Charlebois, his supermarket of choice recently started posting photos of ‘believed-to-be-offenders’ on its wall.

“I was shocked to see that,” says Charlebois. “It’s actually not allowed to do that. If you don’t have the consent of the person, you can’t really use these pictures and publicly show them to everyone walking into your store.”

The food retailers obviously feel desperate times call for desperate measures.

Not just ordinary shoppers

In a statement, Loblaw’s corporate headquarters pointed out that it’s not only individual shoppers who are stealing food.

“Let’s be clear – this is organized crime, focused on products that are stolen to be re-sold through online marketplaces. For us, it includes large amounts of cosmetics, fragrances, and baby formula, even carts full of thousands of dollars of products being pushed right out the front door,” the company says. “We’ve had to make some changes in how our stores operate to stop this crime – adding locked cabinets, time-delay safes and security gates – while at the same time maintaining a welcoming and convenient customer experience.”

In times when retail prices are  high – out of reach for many – high value products are showing up on the black and grey markets. Online platforms make selling stolen goods easy.

A lose-lose situation

Supermarkets say that the more they lose through theft, the thinner their profit margins become. And the more they have to boost prices to make it worthwhile keeping the doors open.

And it’s not just home and family shoppers who are affected.

“The thing about food inflation is that it does impact food services as well. […] Restaurateurs will look for deals to make sure they have something to cook and serve to their own patrons and margins are very low,” Charlebois says. “Most grocers want to make customers feel comfortable as they shop for food, but the reality is that food theft is a big problem.”

On the bright side, Charlebois predicts that food price inflation is expected to ease significantly over the next few months.

“The rough part is behind us. Food inflation is actually dropping in Canada, and we are expecting things to calm down as we finish the year.”

~ Maggie J.