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Some items have risen in price by as much as 50% over the past month

The tight supply of fresh salad items has driven huge price hikes in the past month and could prompt another round of winter shortages, growers have warned.

Core salad lines – such as lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers – have increased in price by up to 50% since the week commencing 6 November, according to analysis of Assosia data by The Grocer.

Standout hikes include a Co-op Washed & Ready to Eat Spinach Salad (100g), up 50% from £1 to £1.50. A Morrisons Sweet & Crunchy Salad, meanwhile, rose by 29% to 89p.

These were followed by a 25.1% increase for Lidl Deluxe Marvellous Tomatoes (300g), up from £1.75 to £2.19, while a Morrisons Organic Lettuce two pack was up by 20.8%, from £1.49 to £1.80. 

The monthly increases have contributed to an average price hike of 6.5% across the category over the past year.

However, many more products have risen in price by a far higher percentage since November 2022. Across 407 lines at the big four, Waitrose, Co-op and the discounters, 132 increased by more than 10%, with 56 increasing by 20%.

The highest annual hike was for a Co-op baby plum tomatoes line (250g), which saw a year-on-year increase of 85.7% after it experienced a 5.4% hike last month.

Aldi’s Nature’s Pick Sweet & Crispy Salad (190g) increased by 52.6% from 78p to £1.19 and a Co-Op Sweet & Crunchy Salad bag (250g) increased by 46.7% from 75p to £1.10, following month on month rises of 9.2% and 10% respectively. 

Production cut backs

One industry insider said the rises had been essential for financially struggling growers, who need enough returns to make it worth putting crops into the ground next year.

Already 10% of cucumber growers have left the sector this year, reported The Lea Valley Growers Association. High energy costs and low returns from buyers were named as significant challenges.

And cucumber lines have also seen some significant price increases across the board, with 11 out of 29 lines seeing year on year increases of over 10%.

Key examples include an Asda Cool & Crunchy Cucumber Portion, which increased by 25% on last year’s price, while a Sainsbury’s Whole Cucumber, Aldi’s Nature’s Pick Cucumber and an Asda Whole cucumber all rose by 21.7% following month on month increases of 7.6%.

The outlook for supplies over the coming weeks now looks concerning, suggested LVGA secretary Lee Stiles.

“Consumers should expect to see salad shortages again over winter and into the new year as British growers again delay planting due to lower returns,” he warned.

Meanwhile, production in Spain and Morocco, which typically supply the UK at this time of year, was also threatened by weather disruption – which led to widespread shortages earlier this year.

Elevated transport costs from the countries could also further push up prices, said vertical farm operator Fischer Farms.

“As extreme weather conditions cause issues for harvests in places like Italy, Spain, and North Africa, fresh produce supply chain disruptions are becoming the new normal for UK consumers,” said founder and CEO Tristan Fischer.

“Some countries that we once relied upon for out of season produce are no longer viable, putting increasing pressure on supermarkets to find alternative routes to market.”