Cost of ready meals and coffee soars as food inflation hits new record

Now cost of ‘cheap’ ready meals, coffee and tinned goods all surge as food price inflation hits record high of 15.7 per cent despite drop in wholesale costs, new figures show

  • Shopping bills have soared over the past year but prices are slowly coming down

Families battling to put food on the table have been hit by soaring prices for ready meals, tinned goods and coffee as food inflation surged to a record high in the UK.

Food prices skyrocketed by 15.7 per cent in the year to April, the biggest annual rise  in records going back to 2005, new figures have today revealed. 

But despite the gloomy annual outlook, data compiled by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) claimed lower shopping bills were on the horizon – in a potential relief for millions of Britons struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. 

Overall inflation among BRC members dropped fractionally to 8.8 per cent from March’s 8.9 per cent as price increases for non-food items slowed due to heavy discounting of clothing, footwear and furniture.

‘We should start to see food prices come down in the coming months as the cut to wholesale prices and other cost pressures filter through,’ BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson today insisted.

Food prices skyrocketed by 15.7 per cent in the year to April, the biggest annual rise since in prices in records going back to 2005, new figures have today revealed (file image)

Britain’s official measure of consumer price inflation peaked last October at 11.1 per cent, its highest in more than 40 years. Since then it has fallen more slowly than the Bank of England expected and remained above 10 per cent in March.

The Office for National Statistics’ measure of food price inflation – which is calculated differently to the BRC’s – was the highest since 1977 in March at an annual 19.1 per cent, reflecting higher costs for biscuits, cakes and confectionery.

READ MORE: How the price of YOUR lunch has soared as cost of a cheese sandwich surges by more than a third 

News of the hike comes just days after a study revealed the cost of preparing packed lunches has soared in the past year amid rampant inflation.

Making a cheese sandwich at home is now 37 per cent more expensive than last year, while the cost of a ham salad sandwich is up 16 per cent to 84p, a packet of crisps from a six-pack has risen 28 per cent to 17p, an apple is up 8 per cent to 52p and a 500ml cola is up 7 per cent to £1.76.

The study by retail research firm Assosia comes as official figures show that food price inflation is at nearly 20 per cent, as households face the biggest squeeze to their living standards in decades.  

Today’s latest data claimed that non-food stores recorded inflation of 5.5 per cent for the month, slipping from 5.9 per cent in March as shops reduced prices in a bid to attract customers. 

This fall offset the jump in food inflation to 15.7 per cent from 15 per cent in March.

Meanwhile, fresh food prices increased by a record 17.8 per cent year-on-year for the month, while the price of ambient products, such as tinned goods and other store-cupboard items, increased 12.9 per cent, up from 12.4 per cent. 

News of the hike comes just days after a study revealed the cost of preparing packed lunches has soared in the past year amid rampant inflation (file picture)

The news comes just days after figures revealed that the cost of making a ham salad sandwich is up 16 per cent to 84p (file picture)

Retail consortium tsar Ms Dickinson added: ‘Overall shop price inflation eased slightly in April due to heavy spring discounting in clothing, footwear, and furniture.

‘However, food prices remained elevated given ongoing cost pressures throughout the supply chain.

‘The knock-on effect from increased production and packaging costs meant that ready meals became more expensive and coffee prices were also up due to the high cost of coffee beans, as well as key producer nations exporting less.

‘Meanwhile, the price of butter and vegetable oils started to come down as retailers passed on cost savings from further up the supply chain.’

READ MORE: Surging shop prices STILL haven’t peaked: Retailers warn of rising cost of key ingredients such as sugar after food inflation grew to 15% this month

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, which carries out monthly assessments shop price index assessments, said: ‘In recent weeks, more retailers have used loyalty schemes or money off promotions to help stimulate sales.

‘However, with inflation yet to peak and sales volumes in decline in many channels, it’s difficult to second guess the strength of consumer confidence.’

Figures from Kantar last week showed grocery price inflation remains above 17 per cent, with own label grocery sales up 13.5 per cent year on year and the very cheapest value lines soaring by 46 per cent. 

Assosia looked at average prices for packed lunch items across Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and Morrisons as well as Aldi click-and-collect. They used prices from the standard ranges at each supermarket before any promotions were applied, and used online prices for the four biggest chains.

Assosia examined the cost of white and wholemeal bread, as well as the fillings of cheese; cheese and ham; tuna mayonnaise; egg and cress; and ham salad.

The experts then compared prices this month with April last year, and the BBC established the price per portion based on suggested serving sizes.

The biggest increase was a cheese and ham sandwich on white bread, up by 18p, and the smallest rise was 5p on a tuna mayo.

They also found that the price of a medium loaf of own-label wholemeal or white bread was up by more than 40 per cent to 86p and 84p respectively.

Grocery price inflation dipped slightly in April – but is still up 17.3 per cent in a year (file image)

Figures released last week by analysts at Kantar claimed that food price inflation remained above 17 per cent.

It was a fall from March’s 17.5 per cent recorded by Kantar and only meant that prices were not increasing as quickly after 10 months of double-digit growth.

Own label sales were up 13.5 per cent year on year, with the very cheapest value lines soaring by 46 per cent, Kantar analysts found – with branded sales up 4.4 per cent while prices have risen fastest for staples including eggs, milk and cheese.

The data also found UK grocery sales rose 8.1 per cent over the four week period year-on-year.

READ MORE — The list of supermarkets where food prices are rising fastest


It comes as online grocer Ocado said it would shut its oldest distribution centre in Hatfield, Hertfordshire this year amid a shift towards robotic warehouses, in a move affecting around 2,300 workers. 

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: ‘The latest drop in grocery price inflation will be welcome news for shoppers but it’s too early to call the top.

‘We’ve been here before when the rate fell at the end of 2022, only for it to rise again over the first quarter of this year.

‘It’s important to remember, of course, that falling grocery inflation doesn’t mean lower prices, it just means prices aren’t increasing as quickly.’

Aldi reached beyond a 10 per cent share of the market for the first time last month, hitting 10.1 per cent, while Lidl also hit a new record share of 7.6 per cent.

Lidl was the fastest growing grocer with sales increasing by 25.1 per cent, while Aldi was just behind on 25 per cent .

Mr McKevitt said: ‘Consumers are continuing to shop around, visiting at least three major retailers every month on average. The discounters have been big beneficiaries of this, with Aldi going past a 10 per cent market share for the first time this month.

‘That’s up from five per cent eight years ago in 2015, so we can see just how competitive the market can be. Retailers are really battling it out to show value to shoppers, but if consumers feel their offer isn’t quite right then they’ll go elsewhere.’

Kantar market share data shows Tesco well out in front, followed by Sainsbury’s, Asda and Aldi

He added shoppers were likely to be looking ahead to the three bank holidays in May, including for the Coronation, which could impact grocery sales.

‘During the week of the Platinum Jubilee last year they were £87million higher than the average in 2022,’ he said.

READ MORE — What happened when TOBY WALNE tried out the lucky dip sites that can slash your grocery bills

‘We’ll be keeping a close eye on the data in the weeks to come to see if we get the same effect this time around, including how many of us indulge in a Coronation Quiche. 

‘Only half of British households bought a quiche over the past year so it might not be for everyone.’

Asda led the grocers with sales up 8.8 per cent year on year in the 12 weeks to April 16, followed by Sainsbury’s on 8.7 per cent and Tesco at eight per cent.

Kantar added households spent nearly £14 on Easter chocolate over the month up to April 16, which works out at around six packs on average.

In addition, 3.4million households picked up a lamb joint for the traditional seasonal roast during the same period.

Official UK data from the Office for National Statistics published last week showed overall consumer price inflation fell to 10.1 per cent in March.

However, prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks were 19.1 per cent higher in March than a year earlier, the biggest such rise since August 1977.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents the major supermarket groups, has said it expects consumer food prices to start coming down over the next few months.

And the Bank of England has forecast overall inflation will drop to below 4 per cent by the end of the year.

READ MORE: The supermarket essentials that have gone up by more than 50% 

Sue Davies, head of food policy at Which?, said: ‘These figures highlight the ongoing struggle people all around the UK are facing when buying food at the moment.

‘Our own research shows everyday basics like white bread, potatoes and porridge oats have increased by up to 80 per cent in the last 12 months.

‘Supermarkets have the power to make things easier for customers. That’s why we are calling on them to ensure budget ranges are available in all branches, including convenience stores, and especially in areas where support is most needed.

‘Pricing must also be made clearer so people can easily work out which items offer the best value for money.’

The grocery price inflation figure is based on over 75,000 identical products compared year-on-year in the proportions purchased by British shoppers, which Kantar says ‘represents the most authoritative figure currently available’.

The analysts also say it is a ‘pure’ inflation measure in that ‘shopping behaviour is held constant between the two comparison periods – shoppers are likely to achieve a lower personal inflation rate if they trade down or seek out more offers’.

Aldi reached beyond a 10 per cent share of the market for the first time this month, hitting 10.1 per cent

Nationwide Building Society’s analysis of its members’ financial habits also found spending on essentials rose at nearly double the annual increase in non-essential spending in March.

The company said it was a sign that households were making lifestyle adjustments in order to be able to afford ‘must-haves’.

The total value of essential spending rose by 11 per cent year on year in March – close to double the growth of non-essential spending (6 per cent), the society said.

The report analysed millions of debit card, credit card and direct debit transactions made by Nationwide members.

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