The last time retailers had to deal with significant food price inflation, Wal-Mart had fewer than 300 stores, consumers relied on grocers for more than 90% of their food purchases, and most supermarkets keyed prices manually at the checkout. Back then, pricing strategies were simple, said Jim Hertel, managing partner at Barrington, Ill.-based Willard Bishop. He said that in 1978, a retailer would reason that “‘I have a 10% price increase from a supplier — I'll mark up the retail price by ...

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