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Wegmans freezes prices on basic necessities

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets has pledged to not raise prices on 40 products this year, despite rising commodity and energy prices.

Wegmans, which operates 70 grocery stores in five U.S. states, will freeze prices on basic necessities such as vegetables, cereals, meat and poultry, the company said Tuesday.

"Costs for many of these products have risen and may continue to rise over the next nine months," said Wegmans spokesman Jo Natale. "If retail prices reflected the true cost of goods, it would mean an additional $350 to $400 annually for a family of four."

Most of the products being frozen are Wegmans own brand, Natale said.

The move comes against a backdrop of rising commodities prices, which have hit consumers in the developing world and are beginning to be felt in the United States.

The United Nations said earlier this month that its world food price index rose in February to its highest level since 1990, when the Food and Agriculture Organization started tracking prices. The increase in food prices comes as bad weather in many parts of the world has decreased supply, while robust economic growth in emerging economies has driven demand.

In addition, rising energy prices could push grocery prices higher due to increased transportation costs. Oil prices have spiked this week amid political instability in the Middle East.

Other companies have been sounding alarm bells about rising commodity prices, while pledging to shield consumers who are still recovering from a deep recession.

On Tuesday, Kraft Foods (KFT, Fortune 500) said rising prices for grains, wheat, and rice could add as much as $700 million to $800 million this year to the company's overall costs in North America.

Earlier this month, cereal maker Kellogg (K, Fortune 500) said that it has "implemented selective price increases to reflect higher input costs." Hershey's (HSY, Fortune 500), which is being hamstrung by high prices for cocoa and sugar, just lowered its earnings outlook for 2011. To top of page

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