Which? is urging the Prime Minister to back struggling British shoppers at his food summit today, as new research from the consumer champion shows food inflation remaining at shockingly high levels, with some meat, yoghurt and vegetables among items costing double what they were this time last year.
In April, Which? analysed prices on more than 26,000 food and drink products for its inflation tracker at eight major supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – to see how everyday product prices are being affected.
Which? found inflation in categories that have previously seen the highest rises, including milk, butters and spreads and bakery items, has eased slightly, while other essential food groups like meat, fish and vegetables have continued to rise month on month.
When the consumer champion looked at some of the worst examples within these food categories, it found the price of some items had almost doubled in the three months to the end of April this year compared to last year. At Asda, Morliny Frankfurters (350g) rose from an average of £1.25 to £2.42 – a rise of 93.8 per cent.
A four pack of Brown onions at Morrisons went from 65p to £1.24 – 90.8 per cent more over the course of 12 months. Also at Morrisons, Lancashire Farm Natural Bio Yoghurt 1kg went up by £1 from £1.18 12 months ago to £2.18 in April, a rise of 85.3 per cent.
These examples of massive supermarket price hikes on some common food types show how difficult it is, particularly for customers on low incomes, to maintain a healthy diet as many items become unaffordable.
Other food categories where inflation continued to rise month on month included juice, chocolate, water, fish, chilled ready meals and cheese.
Which? found Aberdoyle Dairies Natural Cottage Cheese 300g at Lidl had gone from an average of 67p in 2022 to £1.34 this year – a difference of 100.9 per cent.
Meanwhile at Tesco, own-brand Salmon Tails 260G went from £3 to £4.54 – a rise of 51.4 per cent.
Which?’s tracker shows that for the first time since it launched in December, overall inflation has started to ease slightly, from 17.2 per cent in March to 17.1 per cent in the month to the end of April this year compared to the same period the year before.
However, supermarket own-label budget items were up 25 per cent in April compared with the same time last year. While these products are still usually the cheapest available, the scale of these price increases demonstrates how low-income shoppers are being hit hard by soaring inflation.
Branded goods meanwhile showed no change, staying at 13.8 per cent, while regular own-brand food and premium own-brand food inflation decreased slightly since last month.
Last month Which? revealed that essential budget range items are hardly ever stocked in smaller supermarket shops, even though two-thirds (66%) of people with a household income under £21,000 shop in these stores at least once a week.
Which? is now urging the Prime Minister to challenge supermarket chief executives to do more at today’s food summit. He should ask them to take urgent action to help consumers cope with rampant food price increases by ensuring that smaller convenience stores stock a range of essential budget lines that support a healthy diet, especially in areas where they are most needed.
Mr Sunak should also ask supermarkets to commit to clearer unit pricing, especially on promotions and loyalty card offers, so that people can easily work out which products offer the best value.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said:
“It’s very alarming to see products such as meat, cheese and vegetables that people rely on still rapidly soaring in price.
“As the Prime Minister gathers supermarket bosses today to discuss the problem of inflation, we urge him to ask supermarkets to commit to do much more, including stocking budget lines in convenience stores to ensure easy access to basic, affordable food ranges that support a healthy diet, 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 87,000 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.
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 February–April 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, Morrisons and Tesco did not provide a comment
An Asda spokesperson said: “All supermarkets have been impacted by global inflationary pressures which has increased the price of key ingredients. We’re working hard to keep prices in check for customers and we remain the lowest-priced major supermarket – a position recognised by Which? in their regular monthly basket comparison, naming Asda as the cheapest supermarket for a big shop every month for the last three years.
“We’ve recently locked the price of over 500 popular branded and own-label products to give customers more control over what they spend each week.”
A Lidl spokesperson said: “We’re committed to always offering our customers the best value and are proud that multiple independent price comparisons, including those conducted by Which?, continue to show that a basket of shopping at Lidl is consistently lower than at other supermarkets.”
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: “We recently announced price cuts to our bread and butter as we work to keep prices low on everyday essentials. We offer a range of juice and yogurt products, which start from 70p and 60p respectively.”
A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We know that no retailer is immune to the high levels of inflation experienced in the past year, and 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.