Some branded food and drink products at the major supermarkets have more than doubled in price in the last 12 months, an analysis by the consumer group Which? has found.
Branded products, which despite having a lower rate of inflation year on year (12.2%) than supermarket own brand standard ranges (14.6%) and budget ranges (24.3%), tend to cost more overall, the group noted.
Which? has also launched a set of key tests, which it said will guide major retailers to stock budget range alternatives in smaller stores to help struggling shoppers.
The criteria, prioritising those in need, reinforces the need for supermarkets to stock their convenience stores with a range of budget items that include items which support a healthy diet such as tinned, frozen or fresh fruit and vegetables and other staple foods needed to make healthy meals.
“The scale of price hikes to some branded products at the supermarket over the last 12 months is barely believable and highlights the huge pressure faced by shoppers, especially families and those on low incomes,” Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said.
“With food prices expected to remain high for the rest of the year, Which? is calling on supermarkets to ensure expensive convenience stores are stocked with a range of budget items that support a healthy diet – and setting key tests that they can work towards to show they are willing to make a meaningful difference for their customers most in need.”
Branded snack foods saw the largest increases overall according to Which?’s latest inflation tracker. The branded product with the single largest price increase year on year was Mr Kipling Chocolate Slices 6 pack at Tesco, which went from £1.16 on average in 2022 to £2.66 in July 2023 – an increase of £1.50 or 129 per cent.
All food prices have been impacted by the increased cost of animal feed, fertiliser and fuel as well as energy and labour costs but there have also been poor harvests, bird flu and a weaker pound compounding the issue.
The tracker found that year-on-year supermarket food inflation has dipped, this time from 15.4 per cent in the one month to the end of June to 13.8 per cent for the one month to the end of July.
However, the rate of inflation over two years was 25.6 per cent in the three months to the end of July 2023 compared with the same period in 2021 – more closely reflecting changing prices since cost of living pressures emerged.
There were notable falls in inflation for products like milk and butter that have been subject to well-publicised price cuts in recent months. The rate of inflation of butter and spreads in July was 6.3 per cent compared to 10.9 per cent in June and 14.1 per cent for milk in July compared to 19 per cent in June.
However, in both cases, prices are still significantly higher compared to what shoppers were paying before the cost of living crisis, showing the challenge many shoppers are still facing to afford everyday essentials.
Even with inflation slowing, food prices are expected to remain high for the rest of the year according to the Bank of England, with speculation from its chief economist that prices will never return to pre-pandemic levels.