‘It’s ridiculous’: shock as prices in some UK grocery stores rise by more than 20% | Inflation

At Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel, east London, rising food prices forced Petra Emmanuel to change her shopping habits.

“With my utility bill, that’s ridiculous,” said the 51-year-old teacher. “Even though I don’t buy branded foods, it’s the simpler items that seem to have gone up.

“I had to reduce my consumption of meat and fish too, because of the cost. They’re like luxury goods now, which I’ll only buy once or twice a week compared to, say, five times a week I used to.

His experience is shared by shoppers across the UK who experience “shelf shock” on almost every type of grocery store. Research by whom? saw price increases of more than 20% on some products, while official figures this week showed many commodities recorded double-digit increases.

Who? analyzed the prices of more than 21,000 grocery items, using average prices from eight major supermarkets, and compared costs from December last year to the end of February this year with the same period two years earlier.

The analysis revealed that the prices of 265 lines had increased by more than a fifth.

Who? said the items that saw the biggest price increases included a 500g box of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cornflake cereal, which rose 21.4% at Tesco, the brand’s closed-cup mushrooms Asda (250g) which had risen by the same percentage and Cathedral City Extra Aged Cheddar (350g) which had risen by 21.1% at Ocado.

The consumer group said it had examples of shrinkage – where products were smaller but sold for the same price – and that between December 2021 and February this year the availability of certain value ranges had been more limited than before.

These ranges recorded the lowest inflation overall, with prices increasing by only 0.2%, while the standard ranges increased by 2.8% and the premium own-brand ranges by 3.2%.

Soft drinks on a supermarket shelf
The soft drink category saw the largest increases in average prices, the soft drink category. analysis found. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

Which of the 20 grocery categories? soft drinks recorded the largest average price increases, at 5.9%, followed by butters and spreads, at 4.9%.

On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics said food and drink prices had risen by an average of 6% year on year, but some everyday products, including milk and pasta, had risen by more than 10%. Its numbers, which cover the year to April, suggest many of the Which? examined will be even more expensive now.

Sue Davies, which one? head of food policy and consumer rights, said the “exacerbated” price rises were compounded by other factors to put “enormous pressure” on household purchasing budgets.

“During an unrelenting cost of living crisis, consumers should be able to easily choose the product that’s right for them without worrying about price drops or whether their local store is stocking budget ranges.”

Supermarket value ranges were thrown into the spotlight in January when food campaigner Jack Monroe said some shoppers were experiencing huge price inflation because they were unable to access the cheapest products at their local stores.

Since then, Asda has pledged to make its cheapest ranges available across all of its 581 grocery stores and online.

Retailers said they were committed to offering budget ranges and reducing the cost of purchases.

Tesco Value Baked Beans
Tesco said it matched around 650 basics at Aldi’s prices. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

A Tesco spokesman said: “We are committed to delivering great value to our customers, whether that means promising low everyday prices on 1,600 basic products, price matching around 650 basic products at Aldi’s prices or to offer exclusive offers and rewards through thousands of Clubcard prizes.”

This week the government announced it was delaying a ban on ‘buy one, get one free’ deals on junk food in response to the cost of living crisis, but some Tesco and Sainsbury’s said that would continue to remove these promotions.

“I tend to look for bargains”

The Guardian spoke to several shoppers at Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel about how rising food prices have affected them.

Sharon Adams, who is 37 and works in merchandise, says the rise in food prices really shocked her.

“I nearly had a heart attack when I managed to spend £20 in my grocery store last Sunday, even though I didn’t buy any fresh fruit or vegetables, meat or bread,” said said Adams. “This time last year, I wouldn’t have even really checked or noticed the cost of food. But now it’s something I’m much more aware of.

Due to the rising cost of her grocery store, Adams has changed the way she shops and plans her meals, such as using food waste management apps, such as Too Good to Go, to reduce their grocery bill.

“I rarely even try to try to shop in supermarkets so I try to find alternatives,” Adams said. “I now use the Too Good to Go food app. It forced me to change the way I cook, I will now cook whatever I can get out of the app and use it. I’ll just use supermarkets to stock up on essentials that I really need and can’t get through the app.

Christina Davis, who is a teaching assistant, has seen her grocery store grow significantly. “I tend to look for bargains when it comes to more expensive items, like bread and meat,” she said.

Davis was particularly shocked by the rising prices of coffee, meat and oil in particular. “I don’t think the government is doing much to help ordinary people,” she said. “They’re just setting everything up, with gas and electricity and now food.”

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