Consumers turn to fish heads and cheaper meat cuts to lower grocery costs

Waitrose’s 2022 food and drink report reveals customers’ shopping habits

Kate Ng
Thursday 20 October 2022 06:00 BST
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Fish heads, lamb neck, chicken wings and beef shin have risen in popularity among shoppers as they seek to slash grocery bills amid the cost of living crisis, according to Waitrose’s new food and drink report.

The retailer’s annual trends report found that sales of fish heads had risen by more than a third (34 per cent), while beef shin, ox cheek and lamb neck are up by 23 per cent, nine per cent, and four per cent respectively.

It comes as UK inflation rose above 10 per cent for the second time this year due to soaring food prices.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation, published by the Office for National Statistics, shows that the cost of food and drink has increased at its sharpest rate since 1980.

While poultry and meat have risen by 17.2 per cent and 15.3 per cent respectively, the items that have jumped the most price include low-fat milk (42.1 per cent), margarine and other vegetable fats (30.5 per cent), and whole milk (30.2 per cent).

Waitrose notes that slow cookers have increased in popularity, which “makes cooking cheaper (often tougher) cuts a doddle”.

The supermarket introduced its “Forgotten Cuts” range in 2008, which included beef skirt and pig’s trotters, at the height of the Great Recession.

Currently, fish heads are priced at £1.50 per kg, while beef shin is around £5 cheaper per kg than topside beef.

A spokesperson for Waitrose told The Independent: “We’re seeing shoppers choose lesser-known cuts of meat and fish more often. These are cuts that require low and slow cooking for maximum flavour impact and melt-in-the-mouth texture – something we’ve seen in restaurants for years but it is also possible to recreate at home for a fraction of the cost.”

The report also found that 72 per cent of shoppers said they are more mindful about their spending, with more than a third “shopping around for bargains”.

More people are shopping for items with yellow stickers, which are reduced in price as they get closer to their sell-by or use-by dates. One in four people said they keep an eye out for such bargains.

Many are choosing cheaper alternatives, with 32 per cent of consumers choosing to buy cheaper vegetable oil instead of olive oil and 21 per cent buying loose fruit and vegetables instead of bagged.

Some people have said they are making “little downgrades” to save money. The most popular example of this, according to the report, is swapping chicken breasts for thighs, as well as swapping “artisan” loaves of bread for sliced white loaves.

Waitrose also noted that customers are turning to homemade alternatives, such as butter. Searches for the hashtag #HomemadeButter saw a 407 per cent increase after the prices of butter skyrocketed in July.

In addition, nearly a quarter of people who responded to the survey said they have switched to supermarket own brands for essential grocery items.

James Bailey, executive director of Waitrose, said: “At Waitrose we have responded to the crisis by doubling down on our good food promise.

“We believe budgeting shouldn’t mean compromise and are proud that our Essential range delivers not just on price, but on quality and taste.”

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