Waitrose and Aldi cut more prices as Britain's food inflation picture improves

FILE PHOTO: Waitrose trollers in Harpenden, Britain

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) -British supermarkets Waitrose and Aldi announced further rounds of price cuts on Monday, adding to the country's improving outlook for food inflation.

Upmarket grocer Waitrose said it would this week lower the prices of a further 250 products by an average of 10%, while discounter Aldi said it was cutting the prices of 55 fruit and vegetable products by an average of 11%.

Grocery prices remain in the spotlight as Britons grapple with a cost-of-living crisis stretching into its second year.

UK food price inflation reached its highest since 1977 in March at over 19%. This official measure slowed to 14.9% in July and, while industry data showed it at 11.5% in August, rising food prices remain a major strain on the finances of many households.

Its recent downward movement is being closely watched by consumers, lawmakers and the Bank of England as it mulls further rises in interest rates.

Waitrose, part of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership, said the reductions, its third wave this year, would be on items such as pasta, whole chickens, sausages and potatoes.

Monthly industry data has consistently shown Waitrose losing market share and underperforming rivals including industry leader Tesco and No. 2 Sainsbury's, as well as German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Earlier this month researcher Kantar said Waitrose had a UK grocery market share of 4.4%, down 0.2 percentage points year-on-year.

Weekly pricing data from industry publication The Grocer also regularly shows Waitrose to be the most expensive of Britain's major supermarkets for a basket of goods. Regular surveys show Aldi to be the cheapest.

While all British supermarkets have reduced the prices of some products in recent months, researcher the Institute of Grocery Distribution has said that UK food price inflation will still be around 9% in December.

Retailers have cautioned that further supply chain challenges could add to input costs in the months ahead.

Potential issues include poor British harvests, Russia's Black Sea Grain blockade and subsequent targeting of Ukrainian grain facilities, as well as rice export restrictions from India.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Louise Heavens)