NEWS26 January 2022

ONS to reform food inflation measurements

News Public Sector Retail UK

UK – The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is looking at changing the way it measures inflation to more accurately identify the impact of price increases on the UK population.

Person with shopping basket

In a blog post published on 26th January, Mike Hardie, head of inflation statistics at the ONS, said that the statistics body would be looking to increase the number of price points it measures in its inflation figures each month from 180,000 to hundreds of millions, using prices sent directly from supermarket checkouts.

Hardie said this was to help the ONS better understand the impact of price increases in particular sections of the market, and get a more complete picture of food inflation.

The ONS has been working on the reforms for months, with more detailed analysis of inflation that was suspended during the pandemic due to items being temporaily unavailable set to return. The blog said that the changes would occur in the Consumer Prices Index release set for Friday.

The change follows a recent campaign by prominent food blogger Jack Monroe, who had questioned on Twitter whether price rises in basic goods, especially through the discontinuing of own-brand and cheaper ranges, were being properly represented in official inflation figures.

Inflation figures published by the ONS currently measure the changing prices of more than 700 specific items widely bought across the UK.

The reforms would look to expand this to include different varieties of the same products, helping it measure which brands people are buying and examine what this could say about the cost of living.

“This will mean we won’t just include one apple in a shop – picked to be representative based on shelf space and market intelligence – but how much every apple costs, and how many of each type were purchased, in many more shops in every area of the country,” Hardie wrote.

“While it will not show us what each consumer has bought, protecting their privacy, it will show exactly what has been sold and for how much, giving us even more detail on how inflation is affecting UK households.”

Hardie added: “Even once we know how much of every item is bought, we would still need detailed information on exactly what products people in each income bracket buy to be able to produce truly accurate data on exactly how much of what is being bought by whom.

“Clearly none of this is easy but we are working hard to produce the important data that people need.”