The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks are rising at their fastest rate in 45 years.

The annual inflation rate in this category is now 19.2%, up from 18.2% in February 2023.

The largest contributor to this rise in food inflation is bread and cereals, for which average prices rose by 19.4% in the year to March 2023, according to the ONS.

As the cost of food continues to rise, half of adults in Great Britain are buying less food when food shopping, according to the ONS’ latest public opinions and social trends survey.

When asked, between March 22 and April 2, 2023, just over half (51%) of adults reported buying less food in the previous two weeks.

The survey also revealed that around one in four adults (26%) experienced shortages of essential food items in the past two weeks and around one in six adults in Great Britain (16%) were classed as food insecure.

BRC reaction

The British Retail Consortium has warned that food prices are set to remain high.

The trade association for retail businesses said that food prices, especially for fruit, vegetables and sugar, have risen as poor harvests in Europe and north Africa have reduced availability.

Chief executive of the BRC, Helen Dickinson, said as well as this, the “weak pound” has made importing produce more expensive.

She said food inflation is predicted to dip in the coming months leading up to, and during, summer, but that prices are likely to remain high for consumers on shop floors.

“With food price inflation likely to slow in the coming months as we enter the UK growing season, we expect wider inflation will continue to ease,” she said.

“Nonetheless, prices for consumers will remain high, especially as household bill support is lifted.

“Retailers remain committed to helping their customers and keeping prices as low as possible, by expanding value ranges and offering discounts for vulnerable groups.”

Dickinson said the government needs to “play its part” by minimising the oncoming regulatory burdens, as these will hinder investment and “ultimately contribute to ongoing higher prices for households”.