UK shoppers have begun to stockpile some essentials such as cooking oil as grocery price inflation hits it highest level in more than a decade in April.
Supermarket shoppers were preparing for limited availability of some goods along with higher prices, as the war in Ukraine increased public awareness of supply pressures and prices rose, according to the latest survey by the market analyst Kantar.
Cooking oil sales increased 17% in April, with sunflower oil – Britain’s most popular choice for frying – up 27% and vegetable oil sales up 40%.
Grocery prices rose 5.9% in the three months to 17 April compared with the same period a year earlier, the highest level since December 2011 and the latest sign that household budgets are coming under mounting pressure from the cost of living crisis.
Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said the average household is facing potential grocery price increases totaling £271 a year. “A lot of this is going on non-discretionary, everyday essentials which will prove difficult to cut back on as budgets are squeezed. We’re seeing a clear flight to value as shoppers watch their pennies,” McKevitt said.
“Last weekend, several supermarkets introduced restrictions on cooking oil purchases as concerned filled consumers up their cupboards.”
Retailers have begun to react to demand with Tesco introducing a limit of three bottles of oil a customer last week after Morrisons and Waitrose limited purchases to two a person.
Overall, however, sales of items to consume at home fell back as workplaces, cafes and restaurants reopened.
Only Aldi and Lidl increased sales – taking their joint share of the market to 15.4% compared with 5.5% a decade ago – as more than 1 million more shoppers sought a way to offset rising prices by visiting one of the discounters. Aldi’s sales rose by more than 4% to help reach its highest share of the market ever at 8.8% as the German business continues to gain ground on the UK’s fourth biggest supermarket chain, Morrisons. Lidl confirmed its position as the sixth biggest chain with 6.6% of the market ahead of the Co-op.
Tesco was the only other retailer to gain market share over the period, growing by 0.3 percentage points to hold 27.3% of total grocery sales despite its sales falling by nearly 5%.
Online grocery sales were down by almost 15% compared with 2021 as confidence in heading out to stores returned and fewer people were working from home and so able to accept deliveries easily.
in its latest bid for expansion, Lidl is offering a finder’s fee to members of the public who successfully identify suitable sites new sites. The company, which says it is seeking sites in 13 British cities including Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester and London, is offering either 1.5% of the total freehold purchase price or 10% of the first year’s rent for leaseholds, equivalent to £22,500 for a completed £1.5m site purchase.