BY MAX BLACK
DECEMBER 7, 2021
Food inflation pushed higher last month, industry data showed on Tuesday, with Christmas staples already costing more.
According to research from retail consultancy Kantar, grocery prices rose 3.2% in the four weeks to 28 November, the highest rate of inflation since June 2020. For the 12 weeks to November end, grocery inflation stood at 2.2%.
Driving the increase were savoury snacks, crisps and cat food. Prices fell in fresh bacon, bath and shower products, and pet treats.
Kantar said that the average cost of a Christmas dinner for four people was now £27.48, an increase of 3.4% on 2020. Items representing the typical festive meal included a small frozen turkey, pre-packed vegetables, a jar of cranberry sauce and a bottle of sparkling wine.
However, despite the prices rises, Kantar said that shopping patterns had yet to change.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight, said: “Consumer behaviour hasn’t caught up with these changes. Habits we’d expect to see shift, like swapping branded products for own label, or seeking out promotions, have altered just yet.”
Take-home grocery sales fell by 3.8% year-on-year in the 12 weeks to 28 November. During the same period in 2020, however, demand surged as people stocked up ahead of the second lockdown in England, plus there were more restrictions on cafes and restaurants.
Compared to the same 12-week period in 2019, grocery spend was 7.0% higher.
McKevitt said: “With people back in the office a few days a week, and restaurants and cafes open, we’re putting less in our grocery baskets for cooking at home. As a result, the average shop size has shrunk by 8% this month versus last year.”
Looking ahead, he added: “Our excitement about Christmas this year has been slightly tempered as news of the Omicron variant has emerged.
“Online grocery sales fell by 12.5% in the four weeks to late November, as we compare against more orders last year during the second lockdown. As concerns grow over rising case numbers, we expect some people will prefer to shop online again to limit their visits to stores.”
Among individual grocers, sales eased across the board. Tesco saw sales dip 1.4% but its market share improved 0.7 percentage points to its highest level since February 2019. Sales at Lidl and Aldi fell 1.1%.
There were greater falls elsewhere, with sales off 5.3% at J Sainsbury, 5% at Asda ,7.1% at Wm Morrison and 4.6% at Waitrose, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership.
Online grocer Ocado reported a fall of 2.4%, although sales were ahead 35% against the same period two years ago.