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Post-pandemic items in UK shopping baskets including meat-free food

The post-pandemic items in UK shopping baskets: How men’s suits, laminate flooring and DOUGHNUTS have been replaced by meat-free food, craft kits and dog collars as the new everyday purchases used to measure inflation

  • Work-from-home shift due to pandemic claimed men’s suits from basket of goods used to calculate inflation
  • Economists have also removed doughnuts and coal from the list of products followed for price increases 
  • In their place are pet collars and antibacterial surface wipes as households embraced habits and new pets 
  • In a sign of the rise of people eating less meat, meat-free sausages and canned pulses have also been added 

Doughnuts, dictionaries and suits have been abandoned for veggie sausages, craft kits and casual jackets as a new normal for lifestyles, driven by tech and the pandemic, has seen radical changes in the basket of items used to measure the spiralling cost of living in today’s post-pandemic Britain.

Leaving the basket are reference books such as dictionaries and road atlases with people now able to use smartphones rather than leafing through hefty tomes.

The rise in home working means the men’s formal two-piece suit has been eliminated in favour of the sort of formal blazer that looks smart on a Zoom call.

While the sports bra has been added to reflect the fact that more people working at the kitchen table and have switched to a wardrobe dominated by Lycra and sportswear.

Hundreds of thousands of people found home working and lockdowns allowed them to get a puppy and the official inflation basket, drawn up by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), now includes pet collars.

Covid caused a surge in demand for a wide range of antibacterial products, not least hand sanitisers which ran out in the early days of the crisis.

INFLATION SHOPPING BASKET: POST-PANDEMIC ITEMS USED TO MEASURE COST OF LIVING 

OUT

Men’s suit;

Road atlas/dictionary;

Single doughnut;

Coal;

Laminate flooring.

IN

Meat free sausages;

Canned pulses;

Dried herbs;

Frozen/ready cooked Yorkshire puddings;

Men’s formal jacket/blazer;

Sports bra/crop top;

Antibacterial surface wipes;

Craft/hobby kit for adults;

Pet collar for a dog or cat;

Climbing session. 

The ONS said demand for cleaning products is still high, and the convenience and ease of use of the antibacterial surface wipe sees it sweeping into the basket.

In the past, people might have picked up a single doughnut as a lunchtime treat while eating at their desk, but these have also been removed.

Diets changed during lockdown with more cooking from home, while concerns about the environment linked to livestock farming have pushed demand for plant-based foods with even McDonald’s now offering its McPlant.

The ONS said: ‘The growth in vegetarianism and veganism, driven by both greater health and environmental consciousness, see these items – meat free sausages – make their debut into the basket.’ Canned beans, chickpeas and lentils are also entering the basket for the first time.

Surprisingly, coal has remained in the inflation basket in recent years, but it is now coming out. The ONS said: ‘This item already had a very low weight, but with sales of domestic coal being banned in 2023 as part of the government’s actions to combat climate change, this item drops out of the basket in anticipation of this.’ The ONS changes the basket used to measure the cost of living every year. This year 19 items have been added with 15 removed and some 715 unchanged.

Head of economic statistics at the ONS, Sam Beckett, said: ‘The 2022 basket of goods sees some really interesting changes, with the impact of the pandemic still evident in our shopping habits. With many people still working from home, demand for more formal clothing has continued to decrease. So, men’s suits disappear from the basket and are replaced with a formal jacket or blazer.

‘Last year’s lockdown living saw an increase in the number of us working out and exercising. That has continued into 2022 with the addition of the sports bra into the basket reflecting greater spending on sports clothing.’ Linda Ellett, UK Head of Consumer Markets, Retail and Leisure, KPMG, said: ‘The refresh of the basket of goods reflects the point that we’ve now reached in the pandemic.

‘Business wear for both the return to the office and the continuation of video calls from home. Sportswear for a return to gyms and new post-lockdown sporting passions. A booming UK pet population. And anti-bacterial products, to remind that the pandemic is ongoing.

Inflation is running at a 30-year high of 5.4 per cent with fears that it could go over 7 per cent, even up to 10 per cent

‘Amongst many commonly bought goods, prices are rising. Significant challenges lay ahead in the coming weeks and months as households look to balance their budgets, and businesses look to retain customer loyalty.’ Poverty campaigners have complained the ONS fails to properly reflect the true level of inflation suffered by low income households, who spend more of their income on energy and food, which are seeing some of the biggest increases.

The ONS has promised to collect and publish new data, which should give better insight.  

Experts today warned that conflict in Ukraine risks driving a second inflation spike this autumn.

The Resolution Foundation said poorer households, which spend a higher proportion of their money on food and fuel, will be hit hardest and could see their bills rise by 10 per cent.

The Bank of England has warned inflation could rise above seven per cent this year, but the think tank said it now looked likely to peak at over eight per cent.

James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation, said: ‘Until recently, the Chancellor was approaching his upcoming Spring Statement with good news on the public finances and little pressure to make any big policy calls. Fast rising inflation, exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, has changed all this.

‘The chances of a living standards recovery this year are receding as rapidly as inflation is rising, and the risk of another recession is looming into view. The Chancellor will therefore need to make some tough, and potentially expensive, choices in how to respond.

‘The top priority should be to protect poorer households, who are most exposed to the biggest cost of living crisis Britain has faced in generations. The Chancellor cannot protect Britain entirely from the difficult times that lie ahead, but he needs to act urgently to ensure the pain is fairly shared.’

Inflation is already running at its fastest pace in 30 years, with prices rising by 5.5 per cent on average in the 12 months to January.

Separately, the New Economics Foundation said nearly half of all children in Britain will se their families forced to make sacrifices on essentials this spring, like putting food on the table or replacing clothes and shoes.

Its analysis shows by next month a third of households, or around 23.4million people, will be earning less than they need. That number includes nearly half of all children in the UK.

Sam Tims of the think tank said: ‘The cost of living is increasing faster than at any point in recent history. While all families are set to feel a squeeze come April, the lowest income households will be hit proportionately harder.

‘But the cost of living is only a crisis when people cannot afford it and government support must be able to flexibly respond to this. There is little time left for the Chancellor to take action to avert the worst real-terms incomes squeeze in 50 years.’

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