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Panic buying at the grocery store could fuel inflation woes

Compared to last year, groceries are up 10% and bread producers are also warning that those prices could spike another 35% in the months to come.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Price tags in the grocery store are going up, but the end goal for shoppers remains the same as they adapt their budgets, or as one shopper explained "making [their] dollar stretch."

Steve Goode, Executive Director Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants, explained that "consumers have always looked for value," but that value may be harder to find in today's economy.

Compared to last year, groceries are up 10%. Now, bread producers are also warning that those prices could spike another 35% in the months to come.

"Milk prices are higher than a year ago, bread prices are higher than a year ago. Meat prices, pork prices, chicken prices, egg prices, you know, the list just goes on and on and on," Goode said.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the higher prices: the fuel is getting more expensive to farm and deliver the product, the wrappers and packaging costs are going up, and Goode said the cost of the grain itself is actually higher.

This all leads to a higher bill at checkout and forces some consumers to adapt with new shopping habits.

"The collective behavior of everyone trying to buy now so that they can miss the higher prices later, can lead to higher prices in and of itself," University of Arkansas Little Rock Chief Economist Michael Pakko explained.

This would mean that panic-buying in bulk could make inflation even worse. Pakko adding, "Anytime you have an increase in demand, where more people are trying to buy goods, then that are available on the store shelves, then there, the price often serves as a signal of scarcity."

Goode also shared that 'panic buying' may also be influenced by some shoppers who buy in bulk in hopes of re-selling scarce items, like baby formula, for a higher price online.

There is no clear end to the rising prices, but Pakko said there is a method that could lead towards one involving shopper confidence.

"The way that has to be headed off it right up front is by convincing the public that the actions the [federal government] is taking they're going to be successful," Pakko said.

But Goode said that grocery chains are hoping just as much as shoppers that the expenses plateau soon.

"I can assure you that supermarket retailers are ready to get back to some sense of normal. We don't know when that is," Goode said.