Stark warnings the mults need to pay more for chicken appear to have been heeded, with exclusive pricing data by Assosia showing significant retail price inflation across the fresh chicken category since the turn of the year.
Analysis of the data by The Grocer shows there were 772 fresh chicken price increases across the big four, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl over the 20 weeks from 10 January to 23 May.
This figure represented a 522.6% increase on the 124 price hikes during the same period in 2021, and showed calls for retailers to pay more for chicken – most notably from 2 Sisters Food Group CEO Ronald Kers last autumn – were “being taken seriously”, suggested one senior food sector source.
Faced with soaring production costs that have continued rising ever since, Kers told The Grocer in October that supermarket chicken was “too cheap”, as he warned the poultry giant’s retail partners would have to look elsewhere for their chicken unless they passed on more of the sector’s inflationary pressures onto customers.
Departing Co-op boss Steve Murrells reiterated these concerns earlier this month, when he warned the spiralling cost of feed meant chicken could soon “become as expensive as beef”, while pub chain Young’s last week warned it would no longer serve fresh chicken in its pubs due to soaring costs.
And shoppers are now starting to see a ramping up of prices across the fresh chicken category, with many lines having experienced several hikes since January, and just under half of the increases coming in the past two months alone.
Examples of big rises include a 31.3% increase in the price of a Sainsbury’s corn-fed whole chicken (approx 1.55kg) to £8.14 since January.
Meanwhile, a Tesco Finest cornfed free-range whole chicken (1kg-2.3kg) rose by 20%, to £6 over the same period.
A raft of other whole chicken SKUs have seen increases of over 15% since January, while added value and filleted products across the seven retailers have also seen big jumps in price – with some products, such as a 540g Sainsbury’s skin-on thigh and drumstick SKU seeing an 80% increase to £1.80.
British Poultry Council CEO Richard Griffiths said soaring input costs meant many producers were pulling back on production – something already reflected in Defra placement figures, which showed commercial broiler numbers down by about 5% from March to April.
“You can see the uncertainty within the sector, producers are being very cautious and it’s a finely balanced situation,” he said.