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Basic food prices soar 30% in a year

Written by: Emma Lunn
The price of basic groceries such as butter, milk and cheese soared by up to 30% year-on-year in December, according to Which?

The consumer champion’s inflation tracker recorded the price changes of tens of thousands of food and drink products across three months at eight major supermarkets (Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) to see how inflation is impacting everyday products.

The tracker showed how inflation is affecting prices on individual products, product categories and ranges as well as comparing supermarkets by looking at prices year-on-year.

While the tracker showed that in December food and drink inflation was at 15% overall across the eight retailers, butters and spreads went up an astonishing 29.4%. Milk went up 26.3%, cheese 22.3%, bakery items 19.5% and water 18.6%.

The price of a 500g pack of Utterly Butterly almost doubled in a year at some supermarkets, rising from £1 to £1.95 at Waitrose, for example. 

Also at Waitrose, a pint of Duchy Organic Homogenised Semi-Skimmed Milk went from 65p to £1.22, while at Tesco, Creamfields French Brie 200g went from 79p to £1.43.

The worst individual price hike on a food item across all the supermarkets was Quaker Oat So Simple Simply Apple (8x33g) at Asda which went from £1 on average in December 2021 to an average £2.88 in December 2022 – a sharp increase of 188%.

Across supermarket ranges, budget (20.3%) and own-brand (18.5%) items were again subject to higher rates of inflation than premium (12.6%) and branded counterparts (12.5%).

Despite being the cheapest supermarkets overall according to Which?’s monthly price analysis, Lidl prices went up the most (21.1%) in December, followed closely by Aldi (20.8%). Asda had the third highest inflation but was closer to the average of 15% (15.4%).

Meanwhile at Waitrose (14.5%), Sainsbury’s (13.7%), Tesco (13.1%), Morrisons (12.9%) and Ocado (10.5%) inflation rose slightly less.

Campaign for affordable budget food

Which? is campaigning for all supermarkets to ensure that budget line items that enable a healthy diet are widely available and particularly in areas where people are most in need. It also wants to see more transparent pricing and offers, and for retailers to provide targeted promotions to support people who are struggling most with access to affordable food.

Sue Davies, Which? head of food policy, said: “We know food prices have risen exponentially in the last year and our inflation tracker shows the dramatic impact this is having on everyday products at the supermarket.

“Some households are already skipping meals to make ends meet and our findings show trust in supermarkets taking a hit as many people worry they are putting profits before the people suffering during this cost-of-living crisis.

“Supermarkets must do more, Which? is calling for them to ensure everyone has easy access to basic, affordable food ranges at a store near them, particularly in areas where people are most in need, as well as pricing which enables people to easily work out best value and promotions to support people who are particularly struggling.”

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