Everyday essential foods including porridge oats, meat and yoghurt have increased in price by up to 145% year on year as new Which? research reinforces how inflation-busting food costs could be impacting shoppers’ ability to eat a balanced diet.
In September, the consumer champion analysed the prices of almost 27,000 food and drink products for its food inflation tracker at eight major supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – to see how individual product prices are being affected.
This month, Which? focused on products that contribute to a balanced diet including porridge oats, meat, yoghurt and fruit and vegetables, amid concerns that high price increases on certain foods may be making it more difficult for shoppers, especially families and those on a low income, to eat healthily.
It’s important that these are affordable for everyone – and having access to budget range versions of these products can help people manage their food shop – but Which? has found that the most affordable budget range versions are rarely, if ever, stocked in thousands of smaller convenience branches of the big supermarkets. The consumer champion has been campaigning for supermarket giants to do more to show they care about shoppers battling an unrelenting cost of living crisis by ensuring budget ranges are stocked in convenience stores.
The everyday essential product on Which?’s shopping list with the worst price increase year-on-year was Tesco Porridge Oats 1.5kg which more than doubled in price, going from £1.23 on average in the three months to the end of September 2022 to £3 on average in the same period in 2023 – an increase of 144 per cent.
At Asda, Which? found Lancashire Farm Natural Yogurt 1kg went from £1 on average in the three months to the end of September 2022 to £1.78 on average in the same period in 2023 – a 78 per cent increase.
Which? found that in September the overall rate of inflation fell slightly to 11.2 per cent across the eight supermarkets, however for the first time Sainsbury’s had the highest inflation rate (14%) of any supermarket, compared to the same month last year.
A higher rate of overall inflation does not necessarily mean the largest monetary increases on individual food and drink products, however Which?’s latest monthly supermarket price analysis recently found Sainsbury’s replaced Waitrose as the UK’s most expensive supermarket for a big shop if customers have not signed up to a loyalty card.
The consumer champion believes this increase may be due to Sainsbury’s shift to offering more discounts only to Nectar card holders, which appears to have pushed up average prices for customers who do not have the loyalty card. Which?’s inflation tracker includes regular discounts, but not loyalty scheme offers, as they are not available to all shoppers.
In order to help people all over the country access healthy affordable food, Which? has been calling on the big supermarkets that also operate convenience stores – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – to stock essential budget range items in smaller stores.
Which? knows the importance of budget ranges to help people save money in tough economic times. However, the consumer champion has previously found that essential budget range items are hardly ever stocked in smaller stores – even though two thirds (66%) of those with an income of £21,000 or less shop in a convenience store at least once a week. This means that people who have low mobility or no access to public or private transport to reach a larger supermarket are potentially being forced to buy more expensive foods or go without.
In July, the Competition and Markets Authority also highlighted that consumers relying on convenience stores – which it agreed were more expensive – cannot adequately benefit from competition to the full extent of those with access to large supermarket stores.
Some supermarkets have taken steps to help customers but there has not been enough action from some of the UK’s biggest retailers. Stocking essential budget range products in convenience stores would be an important step to better support customers to feed themselves during a time when households are struggling with increased bills and high inflation.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said:
“While the general rate of inflation may be easing, everyday essential foods are still subject to crippling price hikes on supermarket shelves. We know millions of people up and down the country continue to struggle to put food on the table, let alone maintain a balanced diet for themselves or their loved ones.
“Supermarkets have the power to ease the huge pressure faced by shoppers, especially families and those on low incomes. They can do more to help by stocking a range of budget range items that will support a healthy diet in their convenience stores. Which? research has found that these stores rarely, if ever, stock the cheapest products.”
Notes to editors:
Which? Affordable Food For All Campaign
The consumer champion’s Affordable Food For All campaign calls on supermarkets to ease the burden on consumers in the cost of living crisis by ensuring budget range items are widely available throughout all branches – including in smaller ‘convenience’ stores. They should also make pricing more transparent by including unit pricing on promotional offers and making sure that loyalty card promotions give shoppers a genuine discount.
Over 110,000 supporters have signed Which?’s 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.
Products on Which?’s shopping list of everyday groceries which support a healthy diet showing the highest individual year on year price rises.
- Products included in the main body of the press release include some of the highest year-on -year price increases on essential everyday own-brand or branded food at the supermarkets which have convenience stores.
Which? supermarket food and drink inflation tracker
As part of its Affordable Food For All campaign, Which? launched a new monthly tracker in December 2022 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? looks at a three-month average – in this case from July to September 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, Which? offers supermarkets the opportunity to comment on their own products with the highest inflation.
Previous Which? research
Supermarkets were contacted to verify the prices of their specific products but did not provide comment on this occasion
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