Food prices vary as much as 140% depending on where in Iceland you’re doing your grocery shopping. This per a recent price survey conducted by the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ÁSI).
ÁSI compared prices on 103 products sold at fifteen small grocers in rural areas. Fifty-six of the 103 surveyed products had a price difference of 60 – 140% between the highest and lowest listed prices on specific items. Twelve products had a difference of over 140%. This is especially concerning because many of the shops surveyed are located in isolated locations and are the only viable option for people living in the area.
As one example of a significant price difference, a package of standard, sliced sandwich cheese (brauðóstur) had an ISK 1,373 [$10.07; €8.52] or 106% difference between the highest and lowest surveyed price per kilo. The price of a box of Cheerios varied ISK 1,183 [$8.68; €7.34], or 103%. There was a 100% difference, or ISK 1,597 [$11.72; €9.91], between the highest and lowest surveyed per-kilo prices of veal. Butter varied 50% in listed prices, different kinds of bread 60 – 70%, coffee pads 80%, and clothes detergent 156%.
Looking at broader categories, there was between 80 – 100% difference between the highest and lowest prices on meat and fish, around 100% difference on canned and dry goods, and 80 – 100% difference on prices of snacks, sodas, and other beverages. The largest price difference was generally found among fresh vegetables, which averaged a difference of 200 – 300%.
Product selection also varied significantly from shop to shop. The largest selection (94 out of 103 products) was found at Skagafirðingabúð in Skagafjörður, North Iceland; the smallest (24 of 103 products) at Versluninn Ásbyrgi in Northeast Iceland.
Small, independent grocers fighting to stay in the black
For a merchant’s perspective on the price variances, RÚV spoke to Jón Stefán Ingólfsson who has run Jónasbúð in Grenivík, North Iceland, for 25 years. He agreed that 140% was a bit much in terms of a price difference, but said there could be a number of reasons for this. He said the survey included small, privately owned shops in small towns, as well as shops that are part of larger grocery chains. The chain stores can buy their goods at wholesale prices, he explained, which means they can offer lower prices to their customers than the owners of private grocers.
Jón Stefán says he thinks it unlikely that the shops charging higher prices are attempting to gouge their customers, as most small businesses are constantly fighting to stay in the black.
See ÁSI’s full table of price comparison results and shops surveyed (in Icelandic) here.