Food price inflation slows as currency pressures ease

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Food prices have rolled back from a three-and-a-half-year high as pressure from the Brexit-hit pound eased last month, new figures show.

Overall shop prices fell by 0.4% in July in contrast to 0.3% the month before, according to the latest BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index.

Growth in the cost of food slowed to 1.2% last month after reaching its highest level since January 2014 throughout May and June at 1.4%.

Fresh food prices also decelerated to 1% in July, following growth of 1.4% in June. 

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: "July saw lower food price inflation than in June, bringing the march of overall shop prices towards inflationary territory to a halt, for now at least.

"Lower food price inflation in July was, in part, the result of the easing of upward pressure from the currency depreciation on fresh food.

"Shorter stock cycles in fresh food mean that more of the impact of the currency depreciation fed through into inflation earlier in the year and hence it is now subsiding.

"However, the upward pressure on food inflation has not entirely disappeared: ambient food prices are still affected and as seasonal pricing dynamics play out, we could see fresh food inflation pick up again."

The update comes after official figures showed that inflation unexpectedly slowed in June to 2.6%, after hitting a near four-year high of 2.9% in May.

Upward pressure on everyday prices came from food, which saw costs ease back by a smaller 0.3% in June compared with a 0.4% fall for the same month in 2016.

Focusing on the BRC-Nielsen results, Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business Insight, Nielsen, said: "The amount of inflationary pressure coming from retail remains less than from other elements of the economy and in the last few weeks, whilst we have seen a return to more normal weather, the level of consumer demand remains unpredictable.

"Which means retailers are cautious about passing on price increases, in particular at key retail price points.

"So promotional activity is still an important stimulant of demand as consumers become more cautious in the face of higher living costs."