The price of Christmas dinner [see table] may have risen less than the RPI, but the 14.3% hike is still hurting consumers in the pocket, as wages have risen by a comparatively paltry 6.7%.
So where are supermarkets keeping a lid on inflation? And where are they powerless? As the government presses ahead with plans for minimum pricing, some booze deals work out cheaper than in 2008, despite the duty escalator, VAT and continued raw material price inflation. The cheapest bottle of Champagne in the mults fell by nearly 10%, from an average of £15.74 to £14.19.
The centrepiece of the Christmas lunch has also been closely watched. While the price of a 5kg-6kg turkey has risen by 14.2% to £17 in the past five years (marginally below RPI inflation at 15.4% to October), but the price of a fresh turkey - which account for two thirds of sales at Christmas according to the British Poultry Council - has remained remarkably flat: a 5kg standard-tier fresh turkey has risen from an average price of £22.47 to £22.95.
“With those sorts of items a lid has been kept firmly on inflation by grocers, keeping prices very sharp to drive footfall and loyalty,” says Neil Saunders, MD of Conlumino.
Turkey breeders will at some point have to pass on grain price hikes, but at least they - like their buyers - can hedge, to lock down prices up front.
The situation for fresh produce growers is less straightforward. Potatoes, steady at £1.24/kilo between 2008 and 2011, leapt 40.2% to £1.74/kilo this year as yields dropped by 25%, because of the rain.
The Brussels sprout didn’t escape the floods either - a loose kilo rose from £1.24 to £1.69 between 2008 and 2011 after early snow last year led to reduced yields. This year they jumped up again, to £2.10/kilo. “The continued wet weather has meant the roots haven’t developed properly, which slows down growth,” says Andy Weir, head of marketing at Reynolds, a fresh produce supplier to the foodservice providers.
Even parsnips, which have fallen over the past five years, dropping from an average of £2/kilo to £1.62/kilo, have risen year-on-year - from £1.47 to £1.62 - and parsnips will be smaller this year and with more cracked products that won’t make it to market, adds Weir. But it could have been worse. “Some of the retailers will have tweaked their spec to allow for wider tolerances, and the conditions aren’t as bad as they have been for some other vegetables,” he adds.
So: this year’s basket is good news for sprout-hating lager lovers. Next year could be altogether different, as turkey prices - both frozen and fresh -are predicted to rise, and potato prices continue to reel from the worst harvest since 1976.