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Inflation: Milk, tea bags and sugar prices soar as food bills hit record highs

food inflation In this photo illustration, a trolly of shopping filled with produce used in a traditional Sunday roast dinner is filled  on October 23, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. The cost of a home-cooked Sunday roast for a family of four has reached its highest level in over a decade with inflation at 10.1%. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Record inflation means millions of consumers are already skipping meals or struggling to put healthy food. Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty

Inflation meant food prices climbed at their fastest rate on record in October, with staple items including tea bags, milk and sugar all seeing significant price rises.

Food prices overall jumped by a record 11.6%, including a 9.4% rise in store-cupboard staples such as tinned food and other food stored at room temperature, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The cost of fresh food in British shops jumped by 13.3% in October, compared to a year ago. That’s the biggest annual increase since at least 2005, when the BRC started collecting the data.

The BRC said the increases reflect a tight labour market and a jump in energy costs for retailers.

Read more: Morrisons to shut 132 McColls stores putting 1,300 jobs at risk

"Prices were pushed up because of the significant input cost pressures faced by retailers due to rising commodity and energy prices and a tight labour market. Even the price of basic items went up, with the price of the humble cuppa rising, as tea bags, milk and sugar all saw significant rises.

While some supply chain costs are beginning to fall, this is more than offset by the cost of energy, meaning a difficult time ahead for retailers and households alike.” BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said.

Global food prices have risen sharply this year after Russia’s invasion of grain-exporter Ukraine.

"With pressure growing on discretionary spend across both non-food and food retail, delivering good value is the table stake in the battle for shopper loyalty over the next eight weeks,” Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, added.

Overall shop price inflation accelerated to 6.6% in October from 5.7% – again, the highest on record.

Millions of consumers are already skipping meals or struggling to put healthy food on the table due to the cost of living crisis, according to research from consumer body Which?

"It is vital that households get the support they need from the government and businesses,” Which? head of food policy Sue Davies, said.

Read more: Almost 28,000 Brits in personal insolvency amid cost of living crisis

"Supermarkets have a crucial role to play in helping their customers navigate the tough months ahead. Budget lines for healthy and affordable essential items need to be widely available across their stores and they should ensure shoppers can easily compare the price of products to get the best value. Promotions should be targeted at supporting those most in need,” she added.

Andy Clarke, former chief executive of supermarket chain Asda, warned that these record high prices will only go higher.

“We’re seeing inflation numbers at over double-digit. There’s nothing we can see in the near term that suggests it’s going to go south of that. If anything, it’s going to go up,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“I think it’s going to be a tough winter, and food inflation is clearly adding to the burden for families,” he added.

Watch: Cost of living: Aldi overtakes Morrisons as fourth-largest supermarket as food inflation hits new record