February 3, 2023

More than half of all adults in Britain are buying less food and drink, with rising costs leaving the most vulnerable worst off.

People in the most deprived areas of England are the most likely to have cut back: 61% said they bought less food when shopping last month, compared to 44% in the least deprived areas and 51% across Britain.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed in the Food Standards Agency’s Consumer Insight Tracker said they skipped a meal or reduced the size of a meal because they couldn’t afford to buy supplies as the prices of food and not alcoholic beverages rose 16.5% in the year to November 2022, the highest increase since September 1977, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Basic foods such as bread and breakfast cereals have seen the biggest price increases, rising 1.9% in the past month alone, contributing to an annual increase of 16.6%.

That meant inflation for low-income households, where staple foods make up a larger share of the budget, was 10.5%, while the rate for high-income households was 9.1%.

Campaigners and analysts suggest that supermarkets have raised prices in their discounted price ranges faster than luxury items, increasing the pressure on those who need to save money.

The food writer and activist Jack Monroe was one of the first to highlight how prices for cheaper food products had skyrocketed and their availability on supermarket shelves had fallen, contributing to rising hunger and poverty. Her campaign prompted Asda to introduce a more extensive budget range.

A study published this week, which tracked the cost of nearly 19,000 items in supermarkets across the UK daily from July to December, found that items originally priced under 75 pence accelerated faster: 16%. By contrast, items priced from £1.50 to £5 rose just under 4% in July, and items priced above £5 fell nearly 4%.

The items, checked by the price tracking agency Skuuudle, include many products from the supermarket’s discount range, such as biscuits, chocolate, snacks, oils, rice, pasta, cans and packages of food.

A spokesperson for Skuuudle said the differences “make reading difficult for low-income people who see the cost of many high-value items rise, but who may not benefit at all from the price reduction of more expensive items. This change could well be driven by reduced demand for more expensive items as more people turn to high-value products during the cost of living crisis.

Concerns that rising inflation is disproportionately impacting people in poorer UK households has prompted the government’s calculators to provide a more detailed breakdown of the cost of living from this year.

In October, the ONS reported that the overall price of low-cost grocery items had increased 17% in the year to the end of September. This was almost double the annual increase of 9% measured in the 12 months to April.

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