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Tuesday 16 January 2018

Some grocery prices have risen 20 times faster than inflation

Louise McBride

Louise McBride

The price of some groceries has risen 20 times faster than inflation since the economic squeeze began, an investigation by the Sunday Independent has found.

This means that despite having a hell of a lot less money in our pockets than we did during the boom years, many of us are paying far more when doing our weekly shop because of price hikes. Between January 2008 and May 2013, the general rate of inflation has increased by 2 per cent – however, the price of some groceries has climbed by more than 40 per cent.

To find out where the most spectacular price hikes have been, this paper tracked down the last grocery price survey conducted by the consumer watchdog, the National Consumer Agency (NCA), before the economy tanked.

This NCA survey was conducted in early December 2007. We then hit the streets early last week to find out how the 2007 prices compared to the prices charged by the main supermarkets today.

We included Dunnes Stores, Tesco and Supervalu in our shopping survey. We picked 22 branded grocery items – and found that 18 of these had gone up in price over the past five-and-a-half years.

BIGGEST PRICE HIKES

JAM 43% more expensive

If you've a thing for strawberry or raspberry jam, you could be paying almost a euro more for a jar today than you did in late 2007.

A 454g jar of strawberry or raspberry Chivers jam cost €1.88 in Dunnes Stores and Tesco in December 2007, while Supervalu charged €1.94. Today, you'll pay €2.69 for the same jar in Tesco and Supervalu – up to 43 per cent more than you paid less than six years ago.

The wet summers that hit Britain and Ireland in recent years could be behind this enormous price increase, according to Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Stockbrokers. The hike "might be down to fruit prices rising as a result of weather-related issues which affected their harvesting", said McQuaid.

BOWL OF CEREAL 34% more expensive

You're paying about a third more for a box of Kelloggs Cornflakes today than during the boom. In early December 2007, a 500g box of Kelloggs Cornflakes cost €2.24 in Dunnes Stores, Tesco and Supervalu. Last week, the same box would have set you back €3 in Dunnes – 34 per cent more than before the recession, while Tesco charged €2.75 and Supervalu €2.70.

If you need your Weetabix in the morning, you'll save yourself a few bob by only buying it when it's on promotion. Five-and-a-half years ago, a 24-piece box of Weetabix cost €2.65 in the main supermarkets. Today, you'll pay €3.49 – almost a third more.

Wheat is an ingredient in Weetabix, while corn – also known as maize – is an ingredient in Kelloggs Cornflakes. As both wheat and maize are commodities, any increases in commodity prices will inevitably find their way to your bowl of cereal.

"A lot of commodity prices have risen in recent years – and the weather will always be a factor when it comes to commodities," said McQuaid. "Currency is another big factor [for commodity prices] as we import a lot of commodities from abroad."

Paul Kelly, director of the lobby group Food and Drink Industry Ireland, said there had been "significant food commodity inflation" across the world over the last five years. Inflation, in particular, has increased for the main food commodities that are used as raw materials when producing things like cereals, sugar and meat products, according to Kelly.

CRISPS 31% more expensive

If Tayto cheese and onion are your only man, you're paying almost a third more for a six-pack today than you did before the recession.

In early December 2007, the supermarkets in our survey charged €1.75 for a six-pack of Tayto cheese and onion. Today, you'll pay between €2.27 and €2.29 – up to 31 per cent more. One possible reason for the more expensive crisps is the rising price of potatoes. Over the past year, the price of potatoes has jumped by more than a third. The wet summers of the past few years have largely been blamed for this.

SOFT DRINKS 30% more expensive

The price of a 2-litre bottle of 7 Up has increased by about 30 per cent in six years – from €1.84 to €2.39, according to our survey.

The cost of a two-litre bottle of Coca-Cola has jumped by more than a quarter – from €1.81 in December 2007 to €2.29 today.

FLOUR 30% more expensive

The economic downturn has seen a spike in home cooking and baking – but we're not saving as much money as we think. The price of a 2kg pack of Odlum's self-raising flour has risen by almost a third over the past five-and-a-half years. In December 2007, Dunnes Stores and Tesco charged €2.15 for a 2kg pack of this flour; while Supervalu charged €2.19 – today, you'll pay €2.79. Rising commodity prices again will have a part to play in this increase as wheat is an ingredient in flour.

BAKED BEANS 29% more expensive

Whatever about smells, the rising cost of baked beans will also make your wallet lighter. The cost of a tin of beans has leapt by almost a third since 2007. A 420g tin of Batchelors baked beans cost 77c back then – today, you'll pay 99c in the main supermarkets.

MILK 26% more expensive

Milk is a staple food – so most of us can't avoid price hikes here. Since December 2007, the price of 1-litre of Avonmore full fat milk has increased by about a quarter – from 99c in Dunnes and Tesco in December 2007 to between €1.24 and €1.25 today. The price of a litre of Premier low fat milk has increased from 92c to €1.15 or €1.16.

SAUSAGES 24% more expensive

Nothing beats an Irish fry – but go easy on the sausages. The price of a 227g pack of Denny Gold Medal has increased by almost a quarter since the recession. In December 2007, for example, it cost €1.49 to pick up a pack in Dunnes; today, you'll pay €1.85.

TEA 24% more expensive

Irish people drink more tea than almost anyone else on the planet. The tea break is costing us more than it used to back in the boom years. The price of an 80-pack box of original Lyons Tea has increased by almost a quarter since 2007 – from €2.57 to €3.19.

Tea is a commodity – but weather can't always be blamed for rising commodity prices. "A lot of emerging market economies are rising even though the rest of the world is deteriorating," explained McQuaid. "Higher demand for things in these countries will push up prices there. When economies do well, prices tend to rise. Furthermore, a lot of shops offer deals on different items – but they'll compensate with higher prices elsewhere."

CHOCOLATE 19% more expensive

Cadbury's Dairy Milk is one of the bestselling bars in Ireland. Before the downturn hit, you paid 83c for a 53g bar of Dairy Milk in Dunnes and Tesco; today, you'll pay 99c – about a fifth more.

WHAT ELSE WENT UP?

Other groceries which have gone up in price since the recession include a 1kg box of Uncle Ben's long grain rice, which now costs €3.49 – about 17 per cent higher than its pre-recession price of €2.99.

The price of a 500ml draught can of Guinness has increased by about 15 per cent since the downturn, while a 454g tub of Dairygold spread is about 7 per cent more expensive in the main supermarkets. The price of 500g of McCambridge brown bread is up about 6 per cent; and the price of a standard bottle of Fairy washing up liquid is up about 5 per cent – even though the size of a standard bottle has shrunk since the boom years.

WHAT'S GONE DOWN

It's not all bad news: four of the 22 grocery items we examined had either come down in price since the height of the Celtic tiger, or else remained largely flat.

These items were Brennan's 800g white sliced pan, 2-litre bottles of Ballygowan still mineral water, 750ml of Domestos bleach and the 9-pack of Andrex toilet tissue.

Still, groceries that fall in price could soon be rarer than an apologetic banker.

"If the world economy improves, as we expect it to, demand for food will rise so commodity prices could start to rise again," warned McQuaid. "Prices generally will start to pick up over the next couple of years."

Irish Independent

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