child with sandwich

Back-to-school is a busy - and expensive - time for parents but they can console themselves that their kids’ packed lunches have become a little cheaper.

While primary school kids are now getting free school lunches - driving a 28.6% drop in the number of packed lunches eaten by five to nine-year-olds [Kantar] - plenty of older children still take food with them. And exclusive research by The Grocer shows parents are paying (slightly) less for many of the core ingredients.

Based on seven of the most popular items found in a packed lunch, the average cost across Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda has dropped from £1.54 a year ago [w/e 27 August] to £1.50 in the same period this year.

It’s little surprise that parents will be saving on bread, a key weapon in the price war with the average price of a standard large loaf (750g-plus) down from £1.07 to 93p. These price cuts have wiped more than £100m off the value of Britain’s biggest bread brands in the past year.

The average retail price of ham - the most popular sarnie filling, followed by cheese and chicken [Kantar] - has fallen from £12.37 a kilo to £12.15. This follows a tough period for pork producers, with strong supply pushing down prices.

Shoppers can bag a saving in the crisps aisle as the average price of a six-bag multipack has fallen from £1.37 to £1.34. Larger multipacks offer even deeper savings versus last year, with a 12-bag pack down from £2.23 to £2.13.

Larger packs of biscuits and biscuit bars also offer greater savings, with an eight-pack down from £1.32 to £1.19, a 10% drop versus the 7% fall in the price of a six-pack to £1.38.

Parents can make a modest saving on fromage frais, which has fallen by 2% per kilo to £3.33 - not enough to register as a saving when converted to a 50g portion (see table).

But parents won’t be better off if they opt to give their children grapes, the second most popular fruit in packed lunches after apples [Kantar]. The average price per kilo has risen fractionally to £3.83, which is again not enough to register in our sample packed lunch.

The most substantial hike has been on the price of juice drinks - an area under the spotlight as a result of concerns over sugar. Looking only at single-serve products sold in multipacks, the average price per litre has risen 6% year on year to £1.92. This equates to a 2p increase on a 200ml serving.

Cost of kids’ packed lunch  - 2014 vs 2015

Ham (25g) 31p 30p
Bread (two slices)** 11p 9p
Grapes (50g) 19p 19p
Fromage Frais (50g) 17p 17p
Bag of crisps ** 23p 22p
Biscuit bar *** 17p 15p
Juice drink (200ml) 36p 38p
TOTAL £1.54 £1.50

Source: BrandView. Notes: Average volume price given unless otherwise stated. * based on a large loaf containing 20 slices. ** based on six-bag multipack. *** based on eight-biscuit pack.