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Breakfast index surges in UK: How much Britons are paying for bread and milk

Higher-than-expected inflation is taking a toll on UK consumers’ grocery shopping, spelling food poverty for many families.

Bloomberg’s monthly Breakfast Index shows that the cost of basic ingredients that go into an English “fry-up” have all increased significantly from a year ago, with milk jumping by 51% and butter up 31%. It’s yet another measure of how thousands of families can’t avoid paying ever-higher prices for the foods they regularly put on the 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 a sense of how the highest inflation in 41 years is hitting consumers at home.

“Supermarkets have been forced to pass on input cost price increases to already hard-pressed customers,” said Lisa Hooker, industry leader for consumer markets at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. “Worryingly, there have been particularly large increases in the price of food staples such as bread.”

The latest ONS data show that the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 16.4% in October from a year earlier, and that’s after Kantar data last week revealed a 14.7% increase. 

Still, some supermarket operators dispute that prices are rising this dramatically. J Sainsbury Plc, the UK’s second-largest grocer, said its inflation figures are in the single digits, as it looks at every product sold, while market data often only include the 500 most commonly purchased items.

“We think it’s important to look at the full range of products that customers can buy, not a selective range,” Chief Executive Officer Simon Roberts said on a call with reporters earlier this month. 

The average price of a full English breakfast has jumped 19.5% from a year ago, based on the latest ONS data. The total cost to buy all the ingredients needed, using the product sizes provided by the statistics service, has risen to £32.98 ($39.23) compared with £28.42 a year earlier. 

While prices for all key breakfast ingredients are up from a year earlier, a month-on-month comparison shows declines for tea bags, bacon and sausages. Many shoppers are opting for cheaper discount supermarkets, buying own-brand products and putting fewer items in their baskets to save money.

With the economy headed into recession, the outlook is grim for consumers. That’s putting further pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Bank of England to take action.

“Unfortunately, there are few signs the cost of living crisis will abate any time soon,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium. 


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