Supermarket inflation has eased to its lowest level this year but remains high, forcing people to change how they eat and cook as household budgets are strained, according to the data firm Kantar.
Annual grocery inflation in Great Britain declined to 16.5% in the four weeks to 11 June, down from 17.2% last month and a record 17.5% in March. It remains at its sixth-highest level since the financial crisis in 2008, Kantar said. The biggest price rises were for eggs, cooking sauces and frozen potato products.
The figures come a day before the official UK data on inflation, which is expected to show an easing to 8.4% in May from 8.7% in April, when food and drink prices rose at an annual rate of 19.1%.
Rishi Sunak’s pledge to halve inflation this year is at risk from stubbornly high food inflation, which has kept the headline rate at a higher than expected level.
Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “This is the lowest rate of grocery price inflation we’ve seen in 2023, which will be a relief to shoppers and retailers.
“But prices rising at 16.5% isn’t something to celebrate and it’s still the sixth highest monthly figure in the past 15 years. Price rises are now being compared to the increasing rate of grocery inflation seen last summer, which means that it should continue to fall in the coming months, a welcome result for everyone.”
A survey for Kantar found that of consumers’ top five financial worries, rising grocery prices is the only one that they are more concerned about now than at the start of the year.
Almost 70% of households are either “extremely” or “very worried” about food and drink inflation, compared with just over two-thirds in January. It remains the second-biggest concern behind rising energy bills.
Consumers have been switching to supermarkets’ cheaper own-label lines to save money, where sales are up 41% compared with last year, and changing how they eat and cook, Kantar said.
McKevitt added: “People are thinking more and more about what they eat and how they cook as the cost of living crisis takes its toll on traditional behaviours. The most prominent change we’ve seen is that people are preparing simpler dishes with fewer ingredients. Our data shows that the public are turning away from their oven and increasingly using microwaves, which reflects the shift to simpler cooking.”
There were 4% fewer meals made using an oven in the last 12 weeks compared with the same period last year, while microwaved meals rose by 8%, and there was a rise in food prepared with toasters and grills.
Sue Davies, the head of food policy at the consumer group Which?, said high prices have been “hammering the household budgets of millions, including desperate families and people on low incomes who have been skipping meals for many months to make ends meet”.