Economy

Higher coffee prices grind on consumers, retailers

The caffeine in your morning cup of coffee might not be the only thing giving you a jolt - the price could be, too.

Coffee prices - from generic to specialty brews - have been ticking upward for over a year with no end in sight.

The price of a pound of raw coffee beans has almost doubled in 12 months. Now consumers are cutting back, local roasters are struggling, and retailers are scrambling to cover costs.

With rising food and fuel prices, coffee drinkers are left to make tough choices about their caffeine habits.

Christina Sleezer of Fort Mill isn't willing to give up coffee, but something had to give, because "I've got to get gas in my car."

So Sleezer, who works in health care, switched her family of five to generic, store-brand coffee as the price of name brands rose.

She said she refuses to pay $13 for a large can of Folger's or Maxwell House coffee when it used to cost only $8 or $9.

Kraft Foods Inc., makers of Maxwell House, hiked prices 22 percent in March. Other price increases came from J.M. Smucker Co., the maker of Folgers, and Starbucks Corp.

Even discount stores have raised prices. Costco's wholesale coffee costs increased about 25 percent over the past year. Retail prices have gone up 10 percent as a result.

Price increases are the result of higher demand worldwide. Coffee imports have increased by 23 percent over the last decade, according to data from the International Coffee Organization.

Meanwhile, coffee futures rose 57 percent in the past year.

"There's a world demand for better quality coffee," Dilworth Coffee's Don King said. "But then speculation multiplies it. ... What I hope is, somebody is going to lose their shirt."

Read more of this story at CharlotteObserver.com

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