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Food prices hit record high as Brits stock up on candles amid blackout fears

A shopper carries a basket in a supermarket as grocery price inflation soars
Grocery price inflation hit 13.9% in the 12 weeks to 2 October, with milk, margarine and dog food among the products rising the fastest. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters (Neil Hall / reuters)

UK grocery prices have hit a fresh record high, rising at their fastest pace in 14 years, new data has shown.

According to Kantar, grocery price inflation hit 13.9% in the 12 weeks to 2 October, with milk, margarine and dog food among the products rising the fastest. This compares to a 12.4% rise in the 12 weeks to 4 September.

It marks the sharpest increase since the data analytics group began tracking prices during the 2008 financial crash.

British households are now set to pay £643 more on their grocery bills this year, bringing it to an annual total of £5,265.

The average shop is now £3.04 more expensive compared to last year, and comes as UK inflation is already currently near a 40-year high, at 9.9%.

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The figures showed that shoppers have been stocking up on candles amid fears of winter energy blackouts, and opting for cheaper food alternatives and supermarket’s own label goods to cope with steeper prices.

Candle sales rose 9% in the last month while sales of wonky fruit and vegetables rose 38% this month. Supermarket own-label lines increased by 8.1%, while branded items declined by 0.7%.

People also appeared to be searching for cheaper ways to cook rather than using their ovens. Sales of cooking appliances including slow cookers, air fryers and sandwich makers, which generally use less energy, were up by 53%.

Meanwhile, sales of duvets and electric blankets grew by 8%.

Watch: Winter power blackouts 'extremely unlikely' but UK must 'plan for every scenario', says minister

“People are pretty savvy at seeking out best value and retailers are expanding their ranges to help them do this,” Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said. “We have seen grocers making a virtue of visually imperfect fruit and vegetables in recent years, allowing them to carry on offering the fresh products consumers want but at a cheaper price.

“Many shoppers have been converted and sales of ranges like Tesco Perfectly Imperfect or Morrisons Naturally Wonky were up collectively by 38% this month.”

He added: "We're generally reluctant to change what we eat, so this is more about sticking to the food we know and love while hunting for cheaper alternatives," he said.

"For example, while frozen veg sales have gone up slightly, there hasn't been a big switch away from fresh products, which are still worth 10 times more."

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One exception to this was a surge in marmalade sales, which climbed 18% in September as the country commemorated the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Kantar also revealed that the discounters remained the fastest growing supermarkets. Sales at Lidl were up 21% over the last 12 weeks, the best-performing grocer for the fifth month in a row, closely followed by its German rival Aldi.

Meanwhile, Asda was the best performing of the traditional big supermarkets, with its new Just Essentials basic range helping to boost sales. It brought in an additional 417,000 customers over the 12-week period.

Lidl’s share of the market is now 7.1%, up from 6.2% last year while Aldi moved to 9.3% from 8%.

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?