Noodle Prices

As 15 days of Chinese new year celebrations get underway this week, noodle fans are enjoying good fortune when it comes to prices.

Research by The Grocer into the cost of popular Chinese foods reveals the retail price of noodles has risen just over 2.1% year on year on average. Meanwhile, shoppers are paying almost 4% more for rice - and more than 6% extra if they opt for basmati.

Looking at prices in the big five supermarkets, the average price of a kilo of ambient noodles was £4.21 in the run-up to Chinese new year’s day [ 4 w/e 27 January 2014] compared with £4.12 in the weeks leading to last year’s celebrations [4 w/e 8 February 2013]. Price increases were even shallower for shoppers who bought own-label noodles, rising just 1% year on year to £3.84 a kilo.

While rice is considerably cheaper by weight than noodles, prices rose more steeply. For packs weighing 500g or more, the typical price rose by 3.7% year on year from £2.41 to £2.50 per kilo. The average price of branded and own-label rice rose by similar amounts, to £2.79 and £2.09 respectively.

Much of the increase has been driven by basmati, with prices starting to rise as suppliers warn that floods in India and Pakistan, as well as farmers switching to alternative rice varieties, are putting a squeeze on supply. The average retail price of a kilo of basmati has risen from £2.49 to £2.65 - a 6.4% hike - with the typical cost of branded products up 6.8% to £2.97. Overall, own-label basmati has risen in line with the market, but the cost of own-label budget basmati has soared by 40% from 80p to £1.12 a kilo, primarily due to hikes in the price of the largest packs.

But fans of Chinese food can console themselves that some ingredients have fallen in price. Beansprouts, for example, have dipped fractionally from £2 a kilo to £1.98, while a larger saving could be made on own-label beansprouts - down from £1.87 to £1.92.

And, at the start of the year of the horse, shoppers would be backing a winner by buying tofu, which has fallen 2.3% year on year from £7.73 a kilo to £7.55 as promotional activity has increased.

Not so fortunate are shoppers who opt to buy a cooking sauce. The average price of one of the most popular Chinese flavours, sweet & sour, has risen 5.6% per kilo to £3.56. The steepest hike has been in the cost of own-label sauces - typically up 25p per kilo to £2.98 - while branded lines have risen 21p to £3.74. The increases have come despite the number of promotions on sweet & sour sauces rising by almost a quarter - although the typical saving offered by promotions has dipped from 28.4% to 27.9%.

Wholesale prices: global demand keeps milk prices high

Analysis Feb01 p17

High global demand for the white stuff continues to keep dairy commodities prices high.

Whole milk powder (WMP) and skimmed milk powder (SMP) are both up by nearly 25% year on year, thanks to strong demand, particularly from emerging markets like China.

As China is buying more WMP, an increasing amount of milk is being used to produce WMP rather than SMP, leading to tighter SMP supplies and higher prices.

Strong Chinese demand for WMP is also keeping butter prices high, as less milk is available for butter production. Butter in the UK is up 22.7% on last year, although prices have eased over the past month.

Many egg prices, on the other hand, are also down year on year. Egg yolk and eggs for processing in the EU are down thanks to lower feed costs and reduced demand, with prices also down on a month-on-month basis because of reduced demand following the festive period.