Over eight in 10 consumers in Wales are worried about food prices, Which? has found, as many say that they are finding it more difficult to eat healthily and more budget lines in supermarkets would help them get through the cost of food crisis.
As supermarket food inflation remains at high levels, research from the consumer champion shows people in Wales have become increasingly concerned about food prices, with the latest data showing over eight in 10 (86%) people are worried about the cost of food, with people telling Which? that supermarkets should make more budget range foods available.
Which?’s findings show that the worry about food prices is greatest among working age parents surveyed in Wales (90%) and higher than working age parents surveyed in England (88%).
The survey found that eight in 10 (80%) Welsh consumers had taken action to reduce their food bills with six in 10 (56%) swapping to cheaper food and nearly half (49%) shopping around in cheaper supermarkets or online.
More worryingly, Which?’s survey found that when it came to those surveyed who said they were already struggling financially, seven in 10 (70%) consumers said the price of food made it increasingly difficult to eat a healthy diet. One person told Which? “The price of oven chips and frozen meals are a lot cheaper than healthy meals which involve a lot more protein and take a long time to cook which costs more in gas”. Another person said: “We rely on easy meals because we have two children. Healthy convenient meals are very expensive compared with unhealthy convenient meals.”
When it came to more extreme measures, such as skipping meals (12%) or prioritising meals for other family members (7.5%), Which? found it was working-age parents who are being pushed the most, with one in five (18%) working-age parents surveyed in Wales skipping meals and the same number (18%) prioritising meals for other family members.
With so many consumers in Wales already actively reducing the cost of their food bill, there is not much left that consumers can do themselves without further lowering their living standards. Which?’s survey also asked people what action supermarkets could take that would help them save money on food and found that a third (33%) would like to see more availability of budget range foods. This increased to two in five (40%) of Welsh working-age parents in the survey. This particularly affects areas with only small stores, or where consumers are more likely to have limited mobility or access to transport to get to larger stores, as Which? recently found that small supermarket stores rarely stock essential budget line items.
The findings support Which?’s calls for supermarkets to make it easier for people by urgently committing to stocking essential budget ranges in all their stores, including convenience stores, particularly in areas where people are most in need.
A quarter (25%) of Welsh consumers said supermarkets should also make the price of different brands more comparable. Which? believes clear pricing is key to helping shoppers through the current cost of living crisis but in the last year the consumer champion has found poor, inconsistent and sometimes missing unit pricing is hindering shoppers from getting the best value at the supermarket.
This month the Competition and Markets Authority will publish their update of competition and unit pricing in the grocery sector – setting out measures to make it easier for consumers to make the best choices.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said:
“With food inflation causing widespread hardship for people in Wales, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of households but especially those most vulnerable are worried about the price of food.
“At this time of crisis, supermarkets must listen to customers who are crying out for support in the face of high inflation by stocking a range of essential budget lines in smaller stores and by ensuring pricing is clear and more transparent by providing unit pricing on all items including on loyalty card offers.”
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.
Almost 88,000 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.
Yonder, on behalf of Which? conducted an online survey of consumers in each of the UK nations from 25th November-6th December 2022. A minimum of 1,000 respondents were recruited for each of the four nations, with quotas and response weighting used to obtain a nationally representative sample for each nation according to their known age and gender profiles (updated this year using the ONS mid-2021 population estimates). Sample sizes and question text are noted below the relevant charts throughout the reports.
Which? uses insights from its Cost of Living panel. The panel is made up of 29 households from across the UK where participants complete monthly online tasks and in-depth interviews. In January 2023, participants were interviewed to understand the impact of the cost of living crisis on their households. As part of this, they were asked to reflect on any adjustments they have made over the past 6 months and any challenges they might encounter going forward.
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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