UK food prices soar by fastest rate on record as cost of living crisis bites

Annual rise of 11.6% comes as milk, teabags and sugar become more expensive

UK food price inflation soared to a record annual rate of 11.6% in October as staples such as teabags, milk and sugar became more expensive along with fresh food, data shows.

Annual food inflation rose from 10.6% in September, the latest monthly report from the British Retail Consortium and the data firm Nielsen showed.

The annual price increase of fresh food last month was particularly high, up 13.3% year on year compared with a rate of 12.1% in September.

Non-food inflation picked up to 4.1% from 3.3% the month before, meaning overall shop prices were 6.6% higher year on year, also a record rise for the index.

The BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: “It has been a difficult month for consumers who not only faced an increase in their energy bills, but also a more expensive shopping basket.

“Prices were pushed up because of the significant input cost pressures faced by retailers due to rising commodity and energy prices and a tight labour market. Even the price of basic items went up, with the price of the humble cuppa rising, as teabags, milk and sugar all saw significant rises. While some supply chain costs are beginning to fall, this is more than offset by the cost of energy, meaning a difficult time ahead for retailers and households alike.”

There is little hope that food price inflation will ease off soon, warned Andy Clarke, the former chief executive of the supermarket chain Asda.

He told BBC radio 4’s Today programme that Britain faces a tough winter. “We’re seeing inflation numbers at over double-digit. There’s nothing we can see in the near term that suggests it’s going to go south of that. If anything, it’s going to go up.”

Clarke, who is now the chair of the operational improvement company Newton Europe, said Christmas will be challenging for households, who are already facing high fuel costs and rising energy bills, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Everyone wants to enjoy Christmas but you’ve got to take a view that certainly for the next three to six months we’re not going to see any rapid decline in inflation … It’s going to be a tough winter, and food inflation is clearly adding to the burden for families.”

Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland Foods, also warned of further price rises and growing food insecurity. He told Today: “I’ve got cost prices currently on the table from big branded suppliers that we haven’t stomached yet as a business, let alone had to pass on to our customers. So I think it will get worse.

“Food insecurity is inevitably on the rise, and it’s the households with kids who are most at risk.”

Walker also said some essential goods, such as milk and Iceland’s range of £1 items, would be sold as “loss leaders” to help struggling customers.

Sue Davies, the head of food policy at the consumer group Which?, said: “Soaring food prices are a real concern, and our research shows millions of consumers are already skipping meals or struggling to put healthy meals on the table due to the cost of living crisis.”

She said supermarkets had a crucial role to play, and needed to make widely available across stores budget lines for healthy and affordable essential items, and ensure shoppers can easily compare the price of products to get the best value. Promotions should be targeted at supporting those most in need.

• This article was amended on 2 November 2022 to clarify in the subheading and text that the rate of food price inflation is calculated over 12 months.


Julia Kollewe and Graeme Wearden

The GuardianTramp

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