Hard-up shoppers relying on the cheapest supermarket ranges during the cost of living crisis are bearing the brunt of inflation, according to the latest Which? food and drink tracker, which found price increases for value foods far outstripped branded and premium own brands year on year.
In January, the consumer champion’s tracker analysed inflation on more than 25,000 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?’s tracker shows that, while overall inflation at the supermarket in January was at 15.9 per cent compared to the same calendar month last year, the price of value items that make up the supermarkets’ most basic ranges rose by 21.6 per cent. Meanwhile branded goods went up by 13.2 per cent over the same time, own label premium ranges rose by 13.4 per cent and standard own brand foods were up by 18.9 per cent.
The findings show a worse level of detriment is being experienced by those who are likely already struggling to feed their families and pay their bills during the worst cost of living crisis in decades.
When Which? looked at some of the worst individual examples of price increases on supermarket budget own brand budget items, it found the cost of everyday staple items had surged over 12 months. Among the most alarming items soaring in price, Which? found Muesli went from £1.20 to £2.25 at Sainsburys (87.5%), tins of sliced carrots went from 20p to 33p (63%) at Tesco and pork sausages went from 80p to £1.27* (58.2%) at Asda.
When Which? looked at different categories of foods, butter and spreads continued to show extremely high rates of inflation. They went up by 29.9 per cent year on year in the month to the end of January 2023. The same was true with milk which went up by 26.1 per cent on average across all eight supermarkets.
Cheese went up by 23.8 per cent overall according to Which?’s inflation tracker however some individual examples surged by as much as 96.6 per cent. Cheese including types of value Cheddar, Red Leicester and cream cheese also made up a third of the items on Which?’s list of budget groceries with the highest inflation.
When Which? looked at inflation by supermarket it found that while the discounters remain generally cheaper than bigger rivals, it seems they have less room for flexibility when it comes to passing costs on to customers.
The tracker shows prices were up 23.6 per cent year-on year at Lidl and 22.5 per cent at Aldi in January, compared with 10.4 per cent at Ocado, 13.2 per cent at Sainsbury’s, 13.6 per cent at Tesco, 14.4 per cent Morrisons, 15.2 per cent at Waitrose and 16.8 per cent at Asda.
Which?’s findings show that while basic ranges will still generally offer lower prices, people relying on the cheapest food at the supermarket are being hit disproportionately by inflation compared to those who buy premium or branded foods.
Which? is campaigning for all supermarkets to ensure that budget line items that enable an affordable and healthy diet are widely available, particularly in areas where people are most in need. They must also make pricing and offers more transparent and provide targeted promotions to support people who are struggling most with access to affordable food.
As part of its Affordable Food For All campaign, Which? has published a 10-point plan of steps supermarkets can take across these three key areas to help ensure affordable food is available to everyone who needs it.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said
“It’s clear that food costs have soared in recent months, but our inflation tracker shows how households relying on supermarket value ranges are being hit the hardest.
“Supermarkets need to act and Which? is calling for them to ensure 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 do more to ensure transparent pricing enables people to easily work out which products offer the best value and target their promotions to support people who are really struggling.”
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 and provide targeted promotions to support people in the areas that are struggling most with access to affordable food.
More than 68,000 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 research
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.
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.
While some minor price variation may exist due to different prices at different stores across the country, this is unlikely to impact overall inflation figures.
To see how these high levels of inflation on value ranges are affecting products on supermarket shelves Which? also looks at a three-month average – in this case from November to January 2023 – and compares it year on year.
*Asda says its pricing data shows an average price of £1.26 for the three month average Nov 22 – Jan 23, making the percentage increase 57.5%
*Originally branded as Smart Price, not Just Essentials
** Asda says its pricing data shows an average price of £1.26 for the three month average Nov 22 – Jan 23, making the percentage increase 57.5%
*** Product delisted in early January 2023
Rights of Reply:
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.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “With costs going up, we are working hard to keep prices low. Last year we announced that we would invest over £550m by March 2023 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: biscuits, cheese, water, cereals and yoghurts.
“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.”
Lidl and Tesco were also asked for comment
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