The cost of a homemade cheese sandwich has jumped by over a third in one year, according to research for the BBC.

The price of two slices of white bread, a serving of butter and mature cheddar has risen to 40p, up 37% over a year.

Prices of sandwich fillings including chicken, eggs and ham at supermarkets have soared, while the cost of bread has also risen, the figures suggest.

Food prices have been pushed up by extreme weather, the war in Ukraine, and outbreaks of avian and swine flu.

One father said he had already switched his two children from packed lunches to school dinners at £2.45 a head in a bid to save money.

“Everything was going up – ingredients, the cost of cooking, so it’s all something we had to take into account,” Ritesh Thakker from Hounslow said.

“It’s been really tough, especially the cost of fresh food and vegetables going up,” he added, with the family often having to make trips to two or three shops to find the best deals in the face of increasing food and energy bills.

The figures come as food prices continue to soar, rising at their fastest rate in 45 years.

Pano Christou, the boss of Pret A Manger, told the BBC that he thought there was still “a bit more time to go” before food inflation peaks.

Retail research firm Assosia analysed the average price of popular items that make up a packed lunch across Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl as well as Aldi click-and-collect. The data included prices from the grocers’ standard ranges before any promotions were applied, and is based on online prices for the four biggest supermarkets.

Assosia looked at the cost of white and wholemeal bread, as well as popular sandwich fillings covering a mix of dietary requirements – including cheese, cheese and ham, tuna mayonnaise, egg and cress and ham salad – and compared the prices seen in April with the same month last year.

The BBC then worked out the price per portion using suggested serving sizes. A cheese and ham sandwich on white bread saw the biggest rise, jumping by 18p, while the tuna mayo option saw the smallest increase of just 5p.

The price of a medium loaf of own-label wholemeal or white bread rose by more than 40%, the figures show. They now stand at 86p and 84p respectively.

The price of fresh vegetables such as a whole cucumber or an iceberg lettuce has also gone up by more than 50% in the past 12 months, partly due to extreme weather hitting harvests abroad earlier this year.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grains – has also disrupted some supply chains.

Outbreaks of avian and swine flu have also affected supplies and mean the cost of eggs, bacon and ham has shot up too.

Fighting price rises

Matt Raynor, chairman of wholesale sandwich supplier Raynor Foods, oversees an operation that includes 300 employees and produces about half a million sandwiches a week.

According to the British Sandwich Association (BSA), three billion sandwiches are purchased from UK retail or catering outlets each year.

But Mr Raynor says that labour shortages, exacerbated by Brexit, and wage increases have meant that he has had to put up prices.

He estimates that the company’s wage bill has gone up by at least 20% in the past two years, with more staff now joining from India or China, rather than Eastern Europe, due to increased red tape.

And, of course, extra costs get passed on to its customers, which include the likes of hospitals, shops, schools and airlines.

“If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be here,” Mr Raynor says. “There’s not one company out there who could have swallowed all these increases.”

While some wholesale food prices have started to fall, it usually takes some time before that feeds through to the supermarket shelves.

Bigger retailers are expected to start passing on savings to consumers in the next few months but the only item in Assosia’s figures that fell in price was an own-label bunch of organic bananas.

BBC analysis has found that even the meal deal has gone up in price across many major outlets, with the cheapest generally available deal now £3.50 at Sainsbury’s.

But industry body the British Retail Consortium recently said that it expects bigger supermarkets will start passing on savings to consumers soon, potentially easing some of the pressure on households.

Published on the BBC News, 27th April 2023.

Read all Articles