Supermarket price inflation in the UK has hit another record high, raising the increase in average annual household bills to £837, as shoppers increasingly turn to multiple supermarkets to hunt for bargains.
Year-on-year price increases for groceries hit an all-time high of 17.5% in the four weeks to 19 March compared with a year earlier, according to the latest figures from the data firm Kantar. The prices of eggs, milk and cheese are rising at the fastest pace. The latest price rises mean an average annual household bill for groceries is £5,617, Kantar said.
Consumers are choosing to shop around to get the best deals, visiting three or more of the top 10 food retailers each month.
“Unfortunately, it’s more bad news for the British public, who are experiencing the ninth month of double-digit grocery price inflation,” said Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.
“However, shoppers are taking action and clearly hunting around for the best value. Footfall was up in every single grocer this month, with households going to the shops just over four times a week in March. Apart from Christmas, that’s the highest frequency we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic.”
“The supermarkets are also tackling grocery price inflation, battling it out to demonstrate value and get customers through their doors. This is a fiercely competitive sector and if people don’t like the prices in one store they will go elsewhere.”
Overall, grocery sales grew by 8.6% in the 12 weeks to 19 March.
The amounts of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers bought at independent shops rose 32%, 26% and 21% respectively last month, amid concerns about product shortages caused by high energy prices, Brexit and the climate crisis. Some supermarkets including Asda and Morrisons rationed certain salad items.
People have started shopping for Easter, with chocolate egg sales up 6% in volume terms on last year and hot cross buns 5% ahead, Kantar said.
The German discounter Lidl was the fastest-growing supermarket, while its rival Aldi reached a new record market share of 9.9%. Morrisons eked out growth of 0.1% but only because of rising food prices, meaning the amount of goods it sold plunged. Similarly, Waitrose, owned by John Lewis, grew sales 2.1%, but saw its market share slide to 4.5% as the volume of goods it sold also fell.
Sue Davies, the head of food policy at the consumer group Which?, said: “Month after month we’ve seen a dramatic increase in food prices, but our monthly supermarket price analysis shows that some supermarkets are much cheaper than others, so it’s unsurprising that people are choosing to shop where prices tend to be the lowest.
“Supermarkets must ensure everyone has access to basic affordable food with clear unit pricing to help shoppers to compare items and find the best value option for them. Budget ranges also need to be more widely available across stores, so consumers are not forced to pay over the odds to put healthy food on the table.”
Separately, Ocado’s retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer reported a better-than-expected increase in first-quarter sales to £584m as shopper numbers went up. The average basket value was flat in the 13 weeks to 26 February: the average basket size declined to 45 items, but this was offset by an 8.3% increase in the average sales price. The frequency at which customers placed orders is back to pre-Covid levels.
The Ocado Retail chief executive, Hannah Gibson, said customers were spending less on fresh food to avoid any waste, and buying more chilled and frozen products.