What do the Twilight novels, a pineapple and an iPad have in common? The answer, from the tireless price-watchers at the Office for National Statistics, is that they have all found their way into the nation's average "shopping basket", joining such stalwarts as the sponge cake, the rotisserie chicken and the DVD player on the index of 700 items used to calculate inflation rates.
As in previous years, the revised basket offers a snapshot of British life, as new items mark the advent of modern trends and technologies while relics of outmoded tastes and habits gradually drop of the list of representative items.
In 2012, tablet computers, such as the iPad, are included only a year after the smartphone first made the list. The success of "young adult fiction" novels such as the Twilight saga and The Hunger Games has seen it included in the index alongside adult and children's literature. Another new entry is the television, internet and telephone "bundle", increasingly chosen to meet all communication needs in one.
In the food and drink category , new entries include the pineapple, soft continental cheese, cans of stout and hot oat cereals. The British love affair with takeaway food is now represented by the inclusion of chicken and chips on the list, alongside fish and chips and the "ethnic takeaway", which was first listed in 1990. The inclusion of some of the more common food items on the list does not necessarily indicate a rise in sales, but is intended to show the diversity of items in the index.
Items that have vanished include the former staples of the British schoolboy's diet, the boiled sweet and candy-covered chocolate, which have been replaced by the more generic "bagged sweet" category. Charges for developing and printing colour film have also dropped of the list, superseded by digital photography.
The nation's interest in DIY appears might also be waning, with the removal of stepladders from the index. Cable television subscriptions, once a mark of modernity, are also gone.
The Office for National Statistics annually reviews the shopping basket of items used to compile the two main measures of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index – used as the Bank of England's inflation target - and the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which includes housing costs and is used by many employers to set wages.
The statisticians' choice of items representative of the average British consumer was first compiled in 1947, when it included wild rabbit, candles and the mangle. Lard was on the list until 1987, the year that mutton also dropped off.
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