Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Got Milk? You're Gonna Need $4+; Other Dairy Items Such as Cheese and Ice Cream May Also See a Price Increase

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Got Milk? You're Gonna Need $4+; Other Dairy Items Such as Cheese and Ice Cream May Also See a Price Increase

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

Last time it was gas.

Now it's milk and it is poised to spill over a the $4-a-gallon mark.

Besides the direct thump to the pocketbook it is already bringing, it could have a trickle-down effect on items from pizzas to ice cream.

A spot check Friday of five Northeast Florida grocery stores showed a gallon of whole milk selling for $3.89 to $4.39. Industry watchers predict the price could reach a record in the coming months, with some forecasts of $4.50. For a variety of reasons, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said milk prices tend to be higher in Florida and Georgia.

And, as dairy prices rise, so do the prices of dairy-heavy products, such as cheese.

Pizza-makers have started to feel the crunch.

National powerhouses Papa John's and Pizza Hut have raised the cost of their extra-cheese pizzas. Other restaurants, such as Jacksonville-based The Loop Pizza Grill, are keeping menu prices the same, even though cheese is the most expensive ingredient in pizza.

"If I raise the price, who's going to come inside?" said Luis Lazi, owner of Mama Mia's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville. "The people who come here to eat pizza twice a week are just going to come once a week."

Ice cream stores seem to have a little cushion. But if the national average reaches $4.50, expect a boost in the cost of a scoop, said Lynda Utterback, executive director of the National Ice Cream and Retailers Association.

"They're not raising the prices because they want to," Utterback said. "People take their ice cream very seriously. It's an American tradition - mom, apple pie and ice cream."

Dairy products have gone through cycles of rising and falling prices. The current upswing stirs memories of 2004, when the national average price peaked at $3.57.

A year ago, milk cost $3 a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A number of factors are behind the price increase, said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation. …

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