Marmite row: Shoppers braced for food price hike

Marmite Image copyright Getty Images

The spat between Unilever and Tesco may have reached a truce, but experts have predicted that food prices are likely to rise next year anyway.

Dozens of household brands were taken off Tesco's online site amid a dispute with the food manufacturer Unilever over a price hike.

Consumers had been expecting a surge in the price of much-loved brands including PG Tips tea, Pot Noodles and Marmite until the company backed down.

The British Retail Consortium said shoppers have benefited from an "extraordinary run", as supermarket price wars kept food prices stable. Some of the products supplied by Unilever had not changed in price at all in at least five years.

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Shoppers weigh up pricier food

Image caption Kimren Basi - "Prices affect what I buy"

Whether they love it or hate it, the Marmite row has left shoppers considering their options if food prices rise.

In Birmingham city centre, student Kimren Basi sees it having an impact on the cost of living.

The 26-year-old from Derby said: "When the prices are going up I need to save to get books and travel, and so when food is getting more expensive you have to start resorting to cheaper products.

"I would rather go with the products that I am used to. With the prices going up it does affect my decision on what I want to buy."

Image caption Andrew Bryan - "It shouldn't impact our weekly shop"

Andrew Bryan from Tamworth, however, uses budget supermarkets rather than the likes of Tesco.

The 33-year-old said: "I don't really tend to buy that many branded products so it shouldn't impact our weekly shop. But if these prices go up I don't think it will really affect me."

Image caption Claire Morgan - "It's been hyped up"

Civil servant Claire Morgan, from Wednesbury, thinks the entire Tesco-Unilever row has been blown out of proportion.

"I think it has been hyped up, but if I can't send Marmite to Italy there might be an issue - my relatives might not be too happy about it because I send it over there to them."

Image caption Richard Lees - "I am worried about other people"

Richard Lees from Telford is not concerned for himself about food price rises, but he does wonder how it will affect others.

The 51-year-old computer consultant said: "You only have to look around Birmingham to see how many people are already living on the streets, it's just going to make life difficult for a lot of people."

Archives of Tesco's website show a Pot Noodle has consistently sold for £1 since 2011, while a 250g of Bovril beef paste still costs £3.20.

Had a 10% rise been applied to Marmite and passed on to the consumer, however, people would still have been paying less than they were in 2013.

Before Tesco took it off the website, it was selling for £2.35 for a 250g jar.

That compares with £2.69 in June 2013.

And Ben & Jerry's ice cream currently sells at £4, unless it is on special offer. A 10% hike would have taken it to £4.40, still 9p less than people were paying for it in 2015.

Gilad Simhony, chief executive of mySupermarket, said: "At the moment, we are finding the supermarket price wars have overcome any inflation concerns caused by the weak sterling."

That could all start to change.

Steven Dresser, retail analyst at Grocery Insight, said there was likely to be a round of price hikes in January as retailers look to pass on higher costs once the festive season is out the way.

He said: "No one wants to put prices up ahead of Christmas. Others may just wait until January.

"It's only going to get more painful."

Reporting: Daniel Wainwright and Danielle Hayden

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