Wegmans storeFood and commodity prices may be climbing, but one grocer has announced plans to freeze prices on dozens of items that families buy most. Wegmans Food Markets says it won't increase prices on these products through 2011.

"We considered the importance of an item to a family when choosing our list of 40," said President Colleen Wegman, in a statement. "Such things as bananas, pasta, frozen vegetables and laundry detergent are in most shopping carts every week. They are products that families can't do without, so what they pay for these items really matters." There are 40 items on the list, including orange juice, coffee, cereal, bananas, red peppers, pasta and sauce, chicken, ground beef, salmon, tilapia, tuna, frozen pizza, frozen vegetables and both deli ham and turkey. The price protection extends to different varieties and sizes of these items, like different kinds of pasta sauce or frozen vegetables, making the total number covered to about 200 SKUs.

It might be difficult to price compare with other grocers though, since almost all are Wegmans own house brand. Still, many are fresh or frozen produce and proteins and not processed foods.

"We can be more aggressive with pricing for our own brand because we have better access to information on the factors that determine costs," said Jo Natale, director of media relations. "Costs for many of these products have risen and may continue to rise over the next 9 months. If retail prices reflected the true cost of goods, it would mean an additional $350 to $400 annually for a family of four."

The USDA predicts food costs could rise 2% to 3% this year, after several years of stagnant pricing. Word wide, escalating food costs are fueling unrest and impacting poorer regions disproportionally. Wegmans may be small compared to its competitors -- the regional chain operates just 77 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland -- but its shoppers and employees are among the most loyal, last year it was Fortune's third best company to work for.

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