Food down a snip, but profits still up

Unite calls for food profit watch dog

Reading time: 4 min

Although news just in may be whispering of a wafer-thin helping of food inflation slowdown – for most of us in the real world your tasty turkey dinner is still going to be a bit of a Scrooge-like stretch.

Yesterday (December 5), news agency Reuters reported that food inflation was down slightly, slowing to 9.1 per cent in November according to Kantar; that the cost of the Christmas dinner was up 1.3 per cent year-on-year; and that Sainsbury’s has the largest market share gain in over a decade.

The government’s own Office for National Statistics (ONS) report showed annual food inflation reached its highest since 1977 in March at over 19 per cent. UK food price inflation was among the highest across the G7 economies in March 2023, just behind Germany.

So eyes are on this recent very slight downward movement. It’s caused a bit of a stir and according to Reuters its ‘being closely watched by consumers, the Bank of England…, and lawmakers, given Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to halve overall inflation this year ahead of a probable national election in 2024.’

Kantar, marketing data experts, said annual grocery inflation was 9.1 per cent in the four weeks to November 26, down from 9.7. Providing the most up-to-date snapshot of UK grocery inflation, Kantar said prices are rising fastest in markets including eggs, sugar confectionery and frozen potato products.

It reported that grocery sales had risen 6.3 per cent year-on-year over the same period, with 28.4 per cent of sales made on promotion, the highest in over two years.

And with the festive season just days away, the research revealed that the average cost of a frozen turkey Christmas dinner for four with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and sparkling wine, was up 1.3 per cent this year at £31.71.

But if all that meat and fizz is a little too ‘rich,’ apparently us peasants will be able to claw some pennies back, as Brussels sprouts and the good ole figgy pudding works out cheaper year-on-year. Got to love an economist.

Turning an eye to the profit-makers, the report says the UK’s second-spot supermarket, Sainsbury’s, delivered its largest market share gain in over a decade, taking an additional 0.4 percentage points.

Kantar forecast that December would see grocery sales hit over £13bn pounds for the first time, reflecting the fact that despite the slight apparent downtown in turkey thighs, price inflation is still very much here to stay.

Unite remained unimpressed and demanded regulatory action on profiteering food companies and supermarkets.

“The meagre fall in food inflation offers little comfort to struggling shoppers,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. “Food costs are still rising, just at a marginally slower rate. 

“Meanwhile, we know from the regulator, the Competitions and Markets Authority, that three quarters of branded suppliers have been exploiting the cost-of-living crisis to excessively raise prices.

“Shockingly, that same regulator is failing to take any real action to deal with these companies who have caused food prices to spiral by 30 per cent over the last three years.”

Sharon concluded, “Unite will campaign for a new people’s regulator with the power to set fair prices and cap fat cat pay – in other words, a regulator that can act in the interests of the public.”

By Amanda Campbell