Consumers warned to get used to high food pricesTrolley of food up 8.3% since January

06 September 2008

The era of falling food prices is over and households will have to get used to spending more of their budget at the checkout, experts say.

A typical trolley of food has risen in price by 8.3% since the beginning of the year, according to new figures.

The price of meat and fish was up 22.9% since January, while the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables was up 14.7%, a study for the BBC by retail analysts Verdict Research found.

Seven individual items were up in price by more than 40%.

A pack of four croissants was up 47.4%, bolognese pasta was up 46.2%, 125g of ham was up 45.4%, and skinless chicken breasts were up 42.6%.

Basmati rice was up 42.1%, a medium whole chicken up 41.9% and 400g of mayonnaise was up 40.6%.

Food inflation

The survey comes after high street data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) released on Wednesday showed the rocketing rate of food inflation slowed markedly last month.

Neil Saunders, consulting director at Verdict Research, said: 'Food is one of the biggest components of household expenditure, and with increases like these it's not surprising that consumers are feeling squeezed.

'The good news is that food prices won't keep on going up by as much as this. The bad news is that they are likely to remain stable rather than come down.

'Consumers have become used to food prices falling year after year. That era has gone and shoppers are having to adjust to higher prices.'

The BRC said food inflation posted its lowest monthly rise for five months to hit 10% in August. The month-on-month rise was 0.3%, down from 1.9% in July and the lowest since March's no-change reading.

Energy and fuel

But the high cost of food is far exceeding the official rate of inflation, with the Consumer Prices Index, which includes shop goods, energy and fuel costs, at 4.4%.

The Verdict survey for the BBC divided household supermarket purchases into 13 categories, with meat and fish showing the biggest increase in price.

General store cupboard items, including tinned foods, registered the next biggest increase at 15%.

Laundry, washing and toilet paper was up 14.4%, drink was up 6.8%, pet food up 6.5%, cereal and baked goods up 6% and frozen food up 5.8%.

But ready meals were down since January by 0.4% and dairy goods were also down by 1.8%.

Packaging costs

The BRC said food inflation has more than quadrupled over the past year thanks to soaring packaging, cooking oil and fat costs, and has been the main driver of overall upward price pressure on the high street.

National Consumer Council policy expert Lucy Yates said: 'Like everybody else we have been concerned with the recent price hikes in food shopping bills.

'We would urge consumers to shop around, think about how they can keep food wastage to a minimum and use supermarket comparison websites to ensure they get the best deals possible.'

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