Sugar prices in America are as low today as they were in the 1980s, yet the price grocery shoppers pay for sweetened foods is on the rise.  Not surprisingly, so are food manufacturers’ profits.

Still, there’s no shortage of misinformation about sugar prices in America and abroad.   Here are the facts, according to the most recent USDA pricing data.

U.S. Raw Sugar
(the price U.S. producers receive for unrefined sugar)
29.44 cents/pound (Jan.)
U.S. Refined
(the price U.S. food manufacturers and grocery stores pay for U.S. sugar)
28.5 cents/pound (Jan.)
U.S. Retail
(the price U.S. grocery stores charge shoppers after their markup)
61.4 cents/pound (Dec.)

Current Market Trends

  • U.S. raw and wholesale prices plummeted more than 50% from 2010 to 2013 because subsidized Mexican sugar imports created a near-record surplus ratio of 20%.
  • World raw and wholesale prices represent less than 25% of global production and are volatile because of global subsidies.  Increased subsidization and over-production are currently sending prices downward.
  • Grocers, like food manufacturers, are quick to pass along the cost of rising commodity prices to consumers, yet rarely pass along the savings seen when commodity prices fall.

For Comparison Sake

Producer Prices 1980’s Average 2013 Difference
U.S. Raw Sugar Price 22.16 cents 20.46 cents -8%
US Wholesale Refined Sugar Price 27.06 cents 27.22 cents +1%
Food Manufacturer and Retailer Prices 1980’s Average 2013 Difference
Grocery Store Refined Sugar Price 33.59 cents 64.32 cents +91%
Grocery Store Chocolate Bar Price 34.50 cents $1.39 +303%