Food price inflation is at its highest since 1977, and the cost of many household essentials such as vegetable oil, bread and pasta are rising fastest of all. Amid lacklustre retail sales leading up to Christmas, a majority of British adults said they had bought less food than usual in the last two weeks of November.
Inflation came in at 10.7 percent in the year to November, only slightly below October’s 41-year high of 11.1 percent, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The cost-of-living crisis has been escalating throughout the year, but the driving forces behind it have remained the same: energy and food prices.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February caused turmoil in the oil and gas markets, and the knock-on effects of restricted supply sent prices soaring around the world.
As a result of rising transport and packaging costs, the price of food has also shot up. The ONS reports food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose by 16.5 percent over the past year.
The annual rate of food inflation has been climbing for 16 consecutive months, and is now at its highest level in 45 years.
Many staple items are among those whose prices are rising the quickest. The cost of breads and cereals went up by 1.9 percent in November alone, and is up 16.6 percent since last November.
The ONS also tracked the price of 30 everyday grocery basics since September last year, and found many of the lowest-cost items had increased the most.
Chief among them was vegetable oil – now 65 percent more expensive than it was a year ago – followed by pasta (60 percent) and tea (46 percent).
The price of milk was found to be 29 percent higher, potatoes 13 percent, and chicken breast 10 percent.
READ MORE: We’re all feeling ‘beaten up’ by rising bills but good news is coming
The run-up to Christmas is usually a high-water mark for consumer spending, but this year is looking very different.
Retail sales volumes in Britain dropped by an unexpected 0.4 percent between October and November, as Black Friday and the World Cup failed to provide an uplift.
With Christmas now just days away, a survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found over four in five adults (81 percent) were concerned about the cost of food over the holiday season. This figure is significantly higher than the 62 percent recorded last year.
Reflective of the effect of inflation, despite food sales volumes declining, their food sales values have been increasing. “People are paying a whole lot more to buy a whole lot less, and that’s hurting consumers and retailers alike,” said Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell.
For many, food prices are already so high as to make the cost of adequate meals unaffordable, with concerning implications for their health.
The same ONS survey showed that in late November and early December, just under one in five adults in Britain (19 percent) reported having switched to smaller portions because of the cost-of-living.
Meanwhile, 16 percent said they were worried they would run out of food before they could buy more, and six percent claimed they had already run out.
The FSA survey found 29 of respondents said they could not afford a healthy balanced diet, while nearly a quarter (23 percent) claimed they had skipped or reduced the size of a meal because of unaffordable food costs.