UK inflation: Oil, sugar & milk prices surge

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Eye-watering prices: While inflation slows, costs continue to rise (Getty/MmeEmil)
Eye-watering prices: While inflation slows, costs continue to rise (Getty/MmeEmil)

Related tags Food Finance Gastropub

Prices for olive oil, sugar and low-fat milk have rocketed, with officials warning inflation rates still “hinder” the hospitality sector.

This comes as recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed inflation rose by 10.1% in the 12 months to January 2023, down from 10.5% last month. 

However, olive oil, sugar and low-fat milk prices have all surged by more than 40% in that time. 

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The rate of inflation decreasing for three months in a row is promising but it remains the case price rises continue to significantly hinder hospitality businesses. 

“A drop in the cost of visiting venues in January is a clear reflection of venues squeezing every drop out of their margins in a bid to attract custom, in order to stay afloat after a Christmas hit by rail strikes​​ and amid the annual new year drop in consumer spend.”  

Both food and energy bills have been climbing since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago, with the two countries exporting around 80% of the world’s sunflower oil. 

Supply chain issues

However, in more recent months, olive oil prices have been rising due to heatwaves in Spain, which is understood to produce almost half the world’s olive oil, The BBC​ reported. 

Last summer, pub chefs were forced to adapt dishes​ to cope with soaring oil costs. In August, owner and chef of the Cadeleigh Arms in Tiverton, Devon, Nicholas Hack explained the pub’s olive oil cost had recently gone up some 50% pushing the chef to switch to rapeseed oil for the majority of dishes and dressings. 

However, the pub, number 48 on the Top 50 Gastropubs list, still requires olive oil, due to it not being as heavy as rapeseed, in making its charcuterie offering, which could be taken off the menu if prices increase much further. 

Brendan Padfield, owner of the Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk, was among those who had noticed a huge difference​ in the cost of oil. 

Prices through the roof

While some had suggested cooking in beef dripping rather than oil, Padfield found no solace in the idea. “We’ve cooked in beef dripping for more than five years,” he said, “[now] everyone is shifting, and the price of beef dripping is thus going through the roof due to supply and demand.”  

Furthermore, Marc Bridgen, owner of the Dog at Wingham, near Canterbury in Kent, had also seen cooking oil prices soar. While some products such as fish or meat could be switched with cheaper substitutes on the menu, cooking oil was a stock ingredient of which there were few less pricey alternatives.  

“We’re having to employ different new technologies and approaches to work to enable us to tackle the challenges of the next big period,” he said, and was looking into filtration systems that could make oil last longer.  

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