Cost of eggs jumps in breakfast index as Britain’s food inflation persists

Overall, the cost of a basket of breakfast items grew by around £5 (S$8.20) versus a year earlier. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON – Inflation may be easing in Britain but there is little sign yet that the cost of a full-English breakfast is falling. 

Soaring egg prices, which jumped nearly 6 per cent in December from a month earlier, have driven the latest increase in Bloomberg’s monthly Breakfast Index. Overall, the cost of a basket of breakfast items grew by around £5 (S$8.20) versus a year earlier with shoppers finding little respite from inflation on the food they put on their table. 

The index crunches data from Britain’s Office for National Statistics, looking at the prices of the key components in an English breakfast – sausage, bacon, eggs, bread, butter, tomatoes, mushrooms, milk, tea and coffee. It offers one sign of how larger expenses are still affecting households across the UK even as hopes grow that the peak of inflation may have passed.

“As the war in Ukraine continues, so does the pressure on energy and food prices, particularly for animal feed and fertilizer, which drove up the price of many household staples,” said Ms Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer at the British Retail Consortium.

Eggs posted the biggest monthly rise since before Bloomberg’s Breakfast Index began in July, double the rate of increase seen the month before. 

It is an illustration of how bird flu, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis have squeezed the supply of eggs. Supermarkets including Tesco Plc, Asda and Marks & Spencer Group Plc had to introduce rationing in November when availability became constrained.

In a comparison with last year’s prices, milk increased the most, shooting up by 50 per cent, followed by eggs and butter. It shows that the worst-hit items are consumer staples. 

A study of consumer prices by Which magazine this week found that one of the biggest price rises at supermarkets was in Utterly Butterly, which jumped from £1 to £1.95 at Waitrose. Lurpak butter caught shoppers’ attention last year when it required security tags to prevent shoplifting.

Consumers’ trust in supermarkets is dwindling as prices grow, according to Which, with the magazine saying grocers “could be doing a lot more to help thousands through the cost-of-living crisis.” 

The total cost to buy all the components needed for a full English, using the product sizes provided by the statistics service, has risen to £33.79 in a stark increase from a year ago. Higher prices meant that consumers spent a record £12 billion on groceries in December, even as sales by volume fell showing they are getting less for their money.

“The price of many day-to-day essentials – groceries in particular – continued to defy gravity in the critical run-up to Christmas, meaning double digit increases in the cost of many families’ first, back-to-normal Christmas dinners together since before the pandemic,” said Lisa Hooker, industry leader for consumer markets at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. BLOOMBERG

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