Cost of living: Food prices 'will be the new energy crisis'

A customer shops for milk inside a Sainsbury's supermarket in east London on February 20, 2023. - British retail sales rebounded surprisingly in January on falling fuel costs and discounting by online and physical stores, official data showed Friday. At the same time, food sales dropped 0.5 percent, the ONS said, following large price rises over the past year. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
A customer shops for milk inside a Sainsbury's supermarket in east London. (AFP via Getty Images)

A think-tank has warned rising food prices are causing a crisis comparable to that of sky-high energy bills seen over the past year.

“Food prices are the new energy bills when it comes to how people are experiencing the cost of living crisis,” the Resolution Foundation said following the publication of a recent report.

It comes as inflation – and therefore energy bills – is expected to continue to gradually fall over the next few months… while food prices have accelerated.

Food prices soared 15.7% – the highest on record – in April, according to the latest BRC-NielsenIQ shop price index released this week.

And the Resolution Foundation’s survey of 10,000 people, as part of research into actions people are taking in response to rising prices across the board, found 16% (the equivalent of 1.7 million) of adults in the bottom income quintile ate less or skipped meals for seven or more days in March: twice as much as the population as a whole (8%).

Read more: Why you should check your energy bill balance this month

Half a million people on lower incomes also reported using a food or warm bank in the last four weeks, the think tank added.

Meanwhile, separate research from Carnegie UK, based on a YouGov poll of 2,366 people, has suggested a third of adults are eating less healthily due to the cost-of-living crisis, while a third said they socialised less with their friends because of it.

Here are the 10 food and drink items which have increased in price most in the space of a year, based on the consumer prices index including owner-occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) released this week.

  1. Cucumber: £0.55 average price in March 2022, £0.84 average price in March 2023, 52% increase

  2. Olive oil: £3.87, £5.78, 49%

  3. Hard cheese: £6.92, £9.98, 44%

  4. Cheddar cheese: £6.53, £9.29, 42%

  5. Granulated white sugar £0.73, £1.04, 42%

  6. Semi-skimmed milk £0.96, £1.33, 39%

  7. Iceberg lettuce £0.55, £0.77, 39%

  8. Cook-in sauce £1.26, £1.75, 39%

  9. Baked beans £0.76, £1.05, 39%

  10. Whole milk £1.23, £1.70, 38%

However, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said shoppers “should start to see food prices come down in the coming months” amid reductions in wholesale prices and other costs.