One in three Britons struggling to feed themselves

A Which? survey out today reveals that rising grocery bills are causing real hardship

The rise in the price of food is an extra source of stress for households who are already struggling to make ends meet, new research has revealed.

A survey by the consumer group Which? shows that as incomes stagnate, eight in 10 people in Britain are concerned that food is too expensive, and more than half worry about how they will pay for their groceries in the future if prices continue to climb.

The findings come at a time when the cost of food has grown over and above general inflation by 12.6 percentage points over the last six years, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Since last year, the price of food and alcoholic drinks rose by 3.9 per cent on average. However, in the same period, incomes rose by only 2.1 per cent, with three-quarters of consumers saying their income has stayed the same or decreased in the last year. The result of this is that three in 10 people now struggle to feed themselves or their family.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: "While people seem to have accepted their grocery bill going up, stagnating incomes and rocketing food prices are causing stress and worry, and leaving people wondering how they are going to cope.

"Supermarkets need to make it much easier for consumers to spot the best deal by ensuring pricing is simple, and making special offers genuinely good value for money. Politicians need to put consumers at the heart of their economic policies to tackle the rising cost of living and to support growth and prosperity."

In the organisation's separate monthly consumer tracking survey, one million more households admitted that they are feeling the squeeze compared to a year ago, leaving 9.5 million people struggling with the cost of living.

Chris Mould, executive chair of the Trussell Trust, a charity that provides support and sustenance for those in crisis, said that he has seen a 200 per cent rise in the number of people who needed food banks in the first quarter of this financial year compared to last year.

"The fact that one in three consumers say they struggle to feed themselves is seriously worrying. Food insecurity on this scale across the UK warrants urgent political attention. Until progress is made, the Trussell Trust food banks expect to provide an essential helping hand in times of crisis for an increasing number of people," he said.

This year food replaced essentials such as household bills and car costs, as well as luxuries including holidays, as the top item that people spend their savings on.

The survey released today shows that the average amount spent on the weekly food shop for a household is £60, with couples and those with children shelling out around £80.

Some 86 per cent of people who say they are spending a larger proportion of their disposable income on food report that they are not buying more food, with three in 10 saying that they are in fact buying less. Two-thirds say their overall weekly household bill has increased compared to 12 months ago, with rising food prices mostly being blamed.

Shoppers claim they are feeling the hit mostly in staples such as meat, fresh vegetables and bread.

Katherine Trebeck, policy and advocacy manager for Oxfam's UK programme, described the rise in food prices as "part of a perfect storm of high unemployment, falling real incomes and cuts to public services". She stressed that the Government "urgently needs to improve the social security system so people struggling to afford the basics get the support they need to help them through these testing times".