Cost of living: Which? reveals grocery prices soar by over 20%

Customers have seen the price of hundreds of popular grocery items increase by over 20% over the past two years, according to a new study by Which?

According to the consumer group watchdog, there has also been a fall in supermarket discounters and budget ranges.

Which? analysed the prices of over 21,000 grocery items over a two year period, comparing their average prices at eight major supermarkets between December 2021 and February 2022, with the same period two years previously.

These items included products from FMCG giant, Kellogg’s, which saw its 500g Crunchy Nut increase by 21.4% at Tesco.

Asda’s 250g Own Label Closed Cup Mushrooms, also saw a 21.4% increase, and Cathedral City Extra Mature Cheddar 350g, rose by 21.1% at Ocado.

The study also found that the average price of fizzy drinks increased the most, reporting a 5.9% increase.

Butters and spreads, energy drinks and milk also saw a 4.9%, 4.8% and 4.6% increase, respectively, whereas groceries with the lowest inflation included chocolate (1.4%), fresh fruit (1.6%), biscuits (1.8%) and vegetables (1.9%).

According to the study, different supermarkets have had fewer discounts, limited availability of own-branded items and a decrease in product sizes, despite staying the same price.

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The number of promotions also fell across the 20 categories the study.

This includes `the number of discounts on bottled water down 14.7% and vegetables down by 11%.

Examples of ‘shrinkflation’ included Nescafe Azera Americano decaffeinated instant coffee which saw a shrinking of 10g, from 100g to 90g, as well as Walkers Classic Variety crisps dropping from 24 bags in a multipack to 22 bags.

Which? revealed supermarket own-brand budget ranges has also seen the lowest level of inflation at just 0.2% compared with 3.2% for own-label premium ranges.

According to the research, budget own-brand items were unavailable on three times as many days during the most recent three-month period than two years previously.

Of the 20 product categories, own-brand cheese was out of stock the most at 17 days in 2022 compared with six days in 2019.

As a result, Which? is calling on supermarkets and manufacturers to provide clear unit pricing to allow consumers to easily compare and choose the best value items, such as cost per 100g or 100ml.

It also wants them to ensure that budget items are readily available.

“Our research reveals that eye-watering price rises are being exacerbated by practices like shrinkflation and limited availability of all-important budget ranges – and these factors are combining to put huge pressure on household shopping budgets,” Which? head of food policy and consumer rights Sue Davies said.

“During an unrelenting cost-of-living crisis, consumers should be able to easily choose the best value product for them without worrying about shrinkflation or whether their local store stocks budget ranges.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “We are committed to providing great value for our customers, whether it’s promising ‘Low Everyday Prices’ on 1,600 staples, price matching around 650 basics to Aldi prices, or offering exclusive deals and rewards through thousands of Clubcard prices.”

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