Households suffer ‘challenging Christmas’ as UK food inflation hits record 13.3% high in December

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A retail industry boss warned the price of food will continue to rise this year

Food inflation accelerated to record levels in December as households endured a “challenging Christmas”, new figures show.

The price of food for shoppers jumped to a fresh high of 13.3% last month, up from 12.4% in November.

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The increase came as the latest BRC-NielsenIQ shop price index showed a slight sign of respite for cash-strapped shoppers, as overall shop price inflation eased slightly to 7.3% for the month.It pulled back marginally from 7.4% in November but remains close to record highs.

Fresh food inflation increased to 15% for the month from 14.3% in November, while the price of ambient food, such as pasta and tinned food, increased 11% in December against the same month a year earlier.

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However, fashion and homeware retailer shops saw inflation slow to 4.4% in December from 4.8% a month earlier due to price cuts.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Not only did the cold snap force people to spend more on their energy bills, but the prices of many essential foods also rose as reverberations from the war in Ukraine continued to keep high the cost of animal feed, fertiliser and energy. It was a challenging Christmas for many households across the UK.”

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Ms Dickinson added: “Non-food price rises eased as some retailers used discounting to shed excess stock built up during the disruptions to supply chains, meaning some customers were able to bag bargain gifts. The combined impact was that price increases overall plateaued, with the reduction in non-food inflation offsetting the higher food prices.”

‘Further pressure on household budgets’

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, said that the increase in food inflation is “going to put further pressure on household budgets and it is unlikely that there will be any improvement in the consumer mind-set around personal finances in the near term.

He said: “With shoppers having less money to spend on discretionary retail, having paid for their essential groceries, there will be little to stimulate demand across the non-food channels.

“Consumer demand is likely to be weak in Q1 due to the impact of energy price increases and for many, Christmas spending bills starting to arrive.”

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Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responded to the figures, saying: “Families will be looking at the year and wondering whether they will ever feel better off under the Tories. With the growing cost of the weekly shop just one factor in this, the answer will be no.

"Britain deserves more than just survival - working people want our country to thrive. By stabilising our economy and getting it growing, Labour will get money flowing back into it so we can raise living standards and so we can lead in the industries of the future too. All 12 years of Tory government have left us with is higher prices, lower wages and growth on the floor."

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