Will inflation prove to be the 11th plague for Passover this year?
Some Baltimore-area grocers and consumers are taking note of higher than normal prices for food products commonly used for Passover seders.
“Prices have been going up constantly,” said Eli Siegel, general manager of Market Maven. “We’re getting emails with new pricing daily. Some companies will send us several emails a day with new pricing.” For the most part, he added, the prices have been going up, with an average increase of around 20%.
Siegel noted that the cost of fresh poultry had shot up by over 100% from last year, and that he currently was paying more than double what he paid for salmon in 2021. He added that matzah prices had increased a bit as well. Beef prices, however, haven’t really been affected at Market Maven, as they have stockpiles of their own private label of beef, Siegel said.
On how his customers are responding to these price shifts, Siegel said he expected that customers would be willing to tolerate the increased prices, as for many this is the first Passover in two years where families can gather again normally.
“I think people, customers, for the most part, would want the product they’re looking for,” said Siegel, a resident of Pikesville and member of Pikesville Jewish Congregation. “Even if it costs more money, they’ll be willing to bite the bullet and pay that expense.”
Siegel acknowledged that customers may need to make some modifications to the seder menu, noting how his own children enjoy chicken nuggets, and that, with the price of chicken up so much, he may find a substitute for it.
“For the most part, especially in Baltimore, I see the customers are very educated, they do shop around, they look for prices, they look for deals,” Siegel said, noting that many stores are in the same situation as Market Maven. And while many stores have seen the prices of certain items increase dramatically, they are putting other items on sale to lure consumers in.
One such Baltimore-area consumer is Irva Nachlas-Gabin, a resident of Columbia and a member of Beth Shalom Congregation. While this year she plans to attend a seder prepared by her son’s family, she has purchased some dessert items for the meal such as chocolate-covered matzah and chocolate-covered almonds. For those items specifically, she found them for sale at Giant and she didn’t notice any particular increases in their price.
“But I have noticed the meat prices are quite a bit higher,” said Nachlas-Gabin. In particular, she has noticed that over the past few months, some Empire chicken products at Wegmans and Trader Joe’s had gone up as much as a dollar a pound. She added that vegetable prices have been going up as well, namely asparagus, which she commonly uses for seder meals, and which she estimated might be up by 50 cents from last year. “That had me mildly worried, if I had been doing the seder,” she said.
Nachlas-Gabin added that she’s lately had trouble finding the unsweetened variety of jarred gefilte fish she normally gets, and that she had heard rumors that horseradish was in short supply as well, though the latter she could not confirm from personal experience.
Meanwhile, Chaya Mushka Reindorp, a resident of Pikesville, is planning to cook seder meals for both nights. As of March 25, she had so far only begun making a list of Passover items to shop for, though she did note that her husband had picked up the matzah and wine, and that the price had gone up slightly.
In the event that a crucial item, such as something meant for the seder plate, was particularly expensive, Reindorp expected she might try to find it for less elsewhere. As for less important items that are not specifically required for the holiday, she may look for creative alternatives.
All that being said, Reindorp felt that small financial details simply don’t compare to the importance of celebrating a major Jewish holiday.
“With a different event, so to speak, or different holiday, you might want to say, ‘Oh, this is our budget, what can we do with it?’” said Reindorp, a member of Chabad of Park Heights. “But when it comes to our connection with God, and celebrating with him, so the celebration just takes care of the money differences when we want to just do what God wants us to do.”