Right across the board you’re telling us one thing – you’re worried about the cost of food. So what’s the solution, beyond cutting back on luxuries, and do we face a future where food is consumed in a very different way?
When we launched our competition asking people what their biggest consumer concern is for the coming year, we hoped it would give us some insight into what’s pressing on people’s minds right now. As I trawled through the hundreds of entries, one of the themes that kept re-emerging was food prices.
‘We are “down-branding” on everything, and I’m saving and re-using wherever possible (e.g. teabags). I’m still struggling, and I dread to think about the future… eat less, maybe?!’ said Katie.
She could see the funny side, but others weren’t joking. Sarah is a working mum who says she finds it hard to afford healthy, fresh food. ‘I don’t want to feed my family on chips and beans but fresh fish, meat, fruit and veg is so expensive,’ she says. ‘In a growing society of obesity and unfit children I want to give my family the best possible start when it comes to healthy living but it’s getting harder to afford.’
These are just a couple of examples, but there were many more saying similar things. In fact, of around 570 entries, 111 mentioned food prices as a concern.
How are prices changing?
Having researched people’s attitudes to food prices in June, we weren’t exactly surprised by this. Of the 1,009 people we questioned, 92% had noticed an increase in prices in the past 12 months and 84% were worried about it. In fact, it came out as one of the biggest worries, second only to energy prices.
But just how much are prices creeping up? I certainly notice the difference in cost as I do my weekly shop, but I don’t really have a clue how much basic items are rising by. So it was revealing to see a breakdown of how supermarkets are doing this.
According to lovemoney.com, which scoured the database of prices stored by mysupermarket.com, there’s little consistency in how supermarkets change their prices. Take vegetable and sunflower oil, for example, which had the most dramatic range of rises. Waitrose increased the price by 41.3%, Asda by 9.5% – and Tesco actually reduced it by 4.9%!
As a lovemoney.com spokesperson commented: ‘This just goes to show how much control the supermarkets have over their pricing, despite any claims to the contrary about how they are just reacting all the time to wholesale prices.’
How to stop those food bills rising
And our survey suggests that shoppers are wising up to these tricks and being less loyal to certain brands or shops. Around six in ten people told us that they will shop around more to get the best prices.
This is one way to cope with the rises, but are there other ways to cut back? Personally, I believe in cooking from scratch as much as possible; not only is it healthier, you can cook in bulk and freeze extras. Then there are those two little words, ‘meal planning’, which used to make me feel nauseous, but suddenly seem quite appetising.
What’s the future of food?
Or, if you want to do some future gazing, turn to the Food Laboratory’s ‘Food Futures’ report. It predicts that Brits will be shunning expensive restaurants in favour of sharing meals at home with neighbours, with more informal open-air ‘street food’ gatherings.
If that doesn’t sound particularly futuristic, how about their other predictions of dining with contacts all over the world on social networks, eating with others to save energy and ‘food raves’ where hundreds of people join up for night-time food festivals?
Far-fetched, or the future? We’ll have to see, but it does provide one chink of light at the end of this gloomy tunnel – that, maybe, rising food prices will help us rediscover our sense of community.