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Grocery prices in Canada: Shoppers shocked at $16 watermelon, but expert says that's not so outrageous

A post on Reddit has gone viral for showcasing what some say is an exorbitant price for watermelon at a Real Canadian Superstore in Regina, Sask.

A post on Reddit has gone viral for showcasing what some say is an exorbitant price for watermelon at a Real Canadian Superstore in Regina, Sask., but an expert says the outrage does not seem to factor in reasons why the fruit could cost $16.

A photo posted to the "Loblaws is Out of Control" subreddit shows a store sign for seedless watermelons from Mexico priced at $15.99. The Redditor's original post read: "This watermelon [costs] more than my province’s minimum wage."

Indeed, the minimum hourly wage in Saskatchewan is $14 as of October 2023.

"Spotted in Regina ... [roughly 69 minutes of labour for a watermelon," user christontheyikesbike,captioned the photo.

Grocery prices in Canada: A post on Reddit has gone viral for showcasing what some say is an exorbitant price for watermelon at a Real Canadian Superstore in Regina, Sask.
Grocery prices in Canada: A post on Reddit has gone viral for showcasing what some say is an exorbitant price for watermelon at a Real Canadian Superstore in Regina, Sask.

Reddit users react: 'To be fair ...'

Some in the comments attributed the pricy fruit to it being off season.

“It's the middle of winter,” essuxs wrote. “Watermelons aren't exactly locally available.”

“To be fair it’s out of season, so you can save your money since it won’t even be good anyways,” treeteathememeking wrote.

User SpringhurstAve pointed out that the "promotion" was likely targeted towards those celebrating Lunar New Year. Watermelon is traditionally eaten in some parts of Asia since its flesh is red, a colour associated with prosperity.

My guess is that they’re not bringing in as many units so they price it higher for those people who really want it.

Expert: 'For those people who really want it'

Avni Shah is an assistant professor of marketing at University of Toronto.

She says a big factor why the watermelon would cost so much is that the watermelon season in the U.S. ends after the summer months. Since it’s in season in other places that are further away, like Mexico and parts of South America, the far distance to import them in factors into the high price.

“That means it’s going to be a lot more, with travel costs, to bring that over to meet any demand of people wanting watermelon in February,” she tells Yahoo Canada. “My guess is that they’re not bringing in as many units so they price it higher for those people who really want it.”

Watermelon in February price comparisons

When it comes to watermelon prices in Regina, it appears that Loblaw-affiliated stores are selling them for significantly more compared to other grocery stores in the region.

On Feb. 13, a customer service representative at a Regina Save-On Foods told Yahoo Canada that the price for a whole regular sized watermelon was currently $11.99, while Sobeys was selling them for $8.99. At a Regina Safeway, there were no large, whole watermelons but the mini ones were available for $5.99 each.

There doesn't appear to be much of a price stretch for large watermelons sold at Loblaws-affiliated retailers in different parts of the country. At a Toronto-based Loblaws, the fruit was being sold for $12.99, while a Vancouver-based Real Canadian Superstore was selling them for $15.98.