British food staples such as cheddar cheese, sliced white bread and porridge oats are up to 80 per cent more expensive than a year ago, while value range prices continue to shoot up, according to Which?’s latest inflation tracker.
In March, the consumer champion’s tracker analysed inflation on more than 26,000 food and drink products at eight major supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – to see how everyday product prices are being affected.
Which? selected a basket of staple foods including cheddar cheese, sliced white bread, pork sausages, white potatoes and porridge oats to find which of these everyday products have seen the biggest percentage price hikes and work out average prices across the eight supermarkets. The analysis covered the average price of the products in the three months to the end of March 2023 compared to the same time period last year.
Cheddar cheese prices increased by an average 28.3 per cent across all the supermarkets compared to the three months to March 2022. The worst example in Which?’s basket, Dragon Welsh Mature Cheddar 180g at Asda, went from £1 to £1.80, an increase of 80 per cent year on year.
The cost of porridge oats went up by an average of 35.5 per cent across all eight supermarkets compared to the same time last year. However the worst single example of inflation on porridge oats was at Ocado where Quaker Oat So Simple Protein Porridge Pot Original 49g went from 94p to £1.56 – an increase of 65.5 per cent.
When Which? looked at large sliced white bread it found average increases of 22.8 per cent. The Bakery at Asda Soft White Medium Sliced Bread 800g, however, went from 56p to 94p (an increase of 67%) .
Which?’s list also looked at white potatoes and while average inflation was around 14 per cent across the supermarkets, at Morrisons, Baking Potatoes 4 per pack went from 40p to 66p – a rise of 63.5 per cent.
Pork sausages were also included in Which?’s basket of goods and while inflation across the eight supermarkets was 26.8 per cent on average, the budget range item at Asda, Just Essentials by Asda 8 Pork Sausages 454g, went from 81p to £1.40 (a 73.5% increase). Similarly, the value version at Tesco, Woodside Farms 8 Pork Sausages 454g, went from 80p to £1.39 (a 73.3% increase).
These examples of massive price hikes on supermarket value ranges reflect the trend that it is the cheapest products at the supermarket which are being the hardest hit by inflation in percentage terms. Which?’s tracker shows supermarket own-label budget items, which are still the cheapest overall, were up 24.8 per cent in March compared with the same time last year. This is more than standard supermarket own brands which were up by 20.5 per cent. Branded goods and premium own brand ranges meanwhile were both up 13.8 per cent.
Overall food and drink at the supermarket according to our monthly supermarket tracker shows inflation continued to rise in March to 17.2 per cent compared to 16.5 per cent last month.
Which?’s findings show the dramatic impact inflation is having on everyday foods, with even value foods, despite remaining a cheaper option, at risk of becoming too expensive for those on the tightest budgets.
While some supermarkets have engaged with the consumer champion as part of its Affordable Food For All campaign, their response has been far too limited to date, given the scale of the challenge people are facing. More ambitious actions are needed that will help people eat affordably and healthily.
Which? is now calling on the major supermarkets to act by making budget line items widely available, particularly in areas where people are most in need. They must also make pricing and offers more transparent so that people can easily work out which products are the best value.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said:
“Our latest supermarket food and drink tracker paints a bleak picture for the millions of households already skipping meals of how inflation is impacting prices on supermarket shelves, with the poorest once again feeling the brunt of the cost of living crisis.
“’While the whole food chain affects prices, supermarkets have the power to do more to support people who are struggling, including ensuring everyone has easy access to basic, affordable food ranges at a store near them, particularly in areas where people are most in need.
“Supermarkets must also provide transparent pricing so people can easily work out which products offer the best value.”
Notes to Editors
Which? Affordable Food For All Campaign
The consumer champion’s Affordable Food For All campaign calls on supermarkets to do more to ensure own-brand budget line items are widely available throughout all branches – including in smaller ‘convenience’ stores. They should also make pricing and offers more transparent.
More than 86,000 supporters have signed our petition so far calling on the supermarkets to take action.
Alongside the University of Leeds Consumer Data Research Centre, Which? has developed the Priority Places For Food Index which shows where in the UK people are the most vulnerable to food insecurity.
Which? supermarket food and drink inflation tracker
As part of its Affordable Food For All campaign, Which? launched a new monthly tracker in December which tracks tens of thousands of products across eight major supermarkets. The tracker shows rates of inflation overall as well as by supermarket, product category and range.
Which? will be publishing this data each month in order to showcase how inflation is really hitting customers and putting pressure on the supermarkets to do a better job of supporting customers to keep food on the table during the worst cost of living crisis in over 40 years.
Inflation is a measure of how quickly prices are rising or falling and not of absolute price. The supermarkets with the highest inflation may also be the cheapest.
Which?’s tracker looks at 20 popular categories of food and drink at eight supermarkets — Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. It compares average prices across the same three-month and one-month periods year-on-year, including discounts but not multibuys or loyalty card offers. Figures are then weighted based on supermarket market share and the sales volume of each product category.
To see how these high levels of inflation on value ranges are affecting specific products on supermarket shelves Which? also looks at a three-month average – in this case from January– March 2023 – and compares it year on year.
While some minor price variation may exist due to different prices at different stores across the country and sampling techniques, Which? is confident this is unlikely to impact overall averages and inflation figures. Every month, we offer supermarkets the opportunity to comment on their own products with the highest inflation.
Right of replies on specific product price increases
Supermarkets were contacted to verify the products included in Which?’s shopping list. Several provided the consumer champion with a response to these figures. Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons declined to give a formal comment. Tesco did not respond.
An Asda spokesperson said: “We’re working hard to keep prices in check for customers despite global inflationary pressures and we remain the lowest-priced major supermarket – a position recognised by Which? in their regular monthly basket comparison which has named Asda as the cheapest supermarket for a big shop every month for the last three years.
“We recently announced we would be freezing the prices of over 500 popular branded and own label products, more than half of which are fresh meat, dairy, fruit and vegetable products until the end of May.”
An Ocado spokesperson said: “At Ocado, everything we do starts with our customers and we know how important value is to them right now. We continue to support our customers by investing in price across branded and own-brand products. We’ve also recently introduced the Ocado Price Promise so customers can be sure they’re getting great value.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “With costs going up, we are working hard to keep prices low. In the last two years, we have invested over £550m into lowering prices as part of our goal to put food back at the heart of Sainsbury’s.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to support customers with the rising cost of living. Through initiatives such as our Aldi Price Match campaign, Price Lock and My Nectar Prices, customers can find low prices on the products they buy most often both in stores and online – including: butter, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots.
“Our focus on value means that all our customers will find great deals when they shop with us and do not need to go anywhere else to get the best prices on their weekly shop.”
A Waitrose spokesperson said: “As Which? highlighted last month, dairy is one of the categories most impacted by inflation, and no retailer is immune to this. We’re working hard to keep our prices as low as possible, whilst paying our farmers and suppliers fairly, and maintaining high animal welfare standards.”
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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