Food inflation: price of basic groceries soars by ‘astonishing’ 30% - which products are most expensive?

Overall food and drink inflation reached 15% in December

The price of basic groceries such as butter, milk and cheese went up 30% year-on-year at some UK supermarkets in December, new figures show.

Butters and spreads increased by an “astonishing” 29.4%, according to tracking by watchdog Which?, while overall food and drink inflation reached 15% in December across the country’s eight major supermarkets.

Among the worst examples of inflation over the three months to the end of December included Utterly Butterly 500g, up from £1 to £1.95 across several supermarkets.

Waitrose’s Duchy Organic Homogenised Semi-Skimmed Milk (1 pint/568ml) increased 87.1%, from 65p to £1.22, and Creamfields French Brie 200g at Tesco shot up 81.6% from 79p to £1.43.

Which food items increased in price?

Which?’s supermarket food and drink inflation tracker records the annual inflation of tens of thousands of food and drink products across three months at eight major supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Butter and spread was found to be 29.4% more expensive than a year before. This was followed by milk, which was 26.3% more expensive than a year ago, cheese was 22.3% higher in price and bakery items increased by 19.5%.

The price of water increased by 18.6% and savoury pies, pastries and quiches prices rose by 18.5%.

Across supermarket ranges, inflation was significantly higher on budget ranges with these items increasing by 20.3%.

Own-brand items rose by 18.5% while premium items increased by 12.6% and branded alternatives 12.5%.

Which supermarket was the cheapest?

Despite being the cheapest supermarkets overall according to Which?’s monthly price analysis, Lidl prices went up the most by 21.1% in December, followed closely by Aldi at 20.8%.

Asda had the third highest inflation at 15.4% followed by Waitrose at 14.5%, Sainsbury’s at 13.7%, Tesco at 13.1%, Morrisons at 12.9% and Ocado at 10.5%.

‘Trust in supermarkets taking a hit’

Which?’s latest Consumer Insight survey also shows that trust in supermarkets is plummeting, from positive 67 in May 2021 to positive 42 now.

Trust at Aldi and Lidl tended to be lower than their rivals 18 months ago but has stayed relatively the same during this period, leaving it now higher than average at positive 48 and positive 45 respectively.

Waitrose had the lowest level of trust among all consumers, although trust levels among its own customers is significantly higher at 54.

Price rises emerged as a common reason for a lack of trust, particularly the perception that prices were sometimes being artificially inflated for businesses to offset their own rising costs.

Which? is campaigning for all supermarkets to ensure budget line items that enable a healthy diet are widely available, particularly in areas where people are most in need. It is also calling on retailers to make pricing and offers more transparent and provide targeted promotions to support people in the areas struggling the most with access to affordable food.

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Which? head of food policy Sue Davies said: “We know food prices have risen exponentially in the last year and our inflation tracker shows the dramatic impact this is having on everyday products at the supermarket. Some households are already skipping meals to make ends meet and our findings show trust in supermarkets taking a hit as many people worry they are putting profits before the people suffering during this cost-of-living crisis.

“Supermarkets must do more. 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, as well as pricing which enables people to easily work out best value and promotions to support people who are particularly struggling.”

‘Retailers are doing everything they can to limit price rises’

A Waitrose spokeswoman said Which?’s research shows that its “price inflation was in fact lower than the market average” and the retailer is “working very hard” with suppliers to ensure “great value” for shoppers.

An Asda spokesman said the supermarket is “working hard to keep prices in check for customers and remain the lowest-priced major supermarket”. Asda has been named the cheapest supermarket for a big shop every month for the last three years in Which?’s regular monthly basket comparison.

An Aldi spokeswoman said its customers “will always pay less for their shop with Aldi”, while Tesco responded to the survey saying it is “absolutely committed to helping our customers by keeping a laser focus on the cost of the weekly shop.”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers understand the pressure households are under and are doing everything they can to limit price rises on their products. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has pushed up the cost of many items including wheat, fertiliser and animal feed, as well as global energy prices, leading to higher prices for many staples.

“Despite these challenges, retailers are determined to support their consumers with the cost of living and provide local communities with easy access to affordable food by expanding value ranges, keeping the price of essentials down and introducing discounts for vulnerable groups.”