Nine out of 10 Brits are concerned about the rapidly rising cost of groceries, a survey by Kantar suggested today. And that’s no surprise, given grocery inflation this month hit a 13-year high.

In the latest four-week period, like-for-like grocery prices were up 7% on the same period last year, latest supermarket data from Kantar showed – the highest rate of inflation seen since May 2009.

In the words of Fraser McKevitt, head of retail & consumer insight at Kantar, “people are really feeling the squeeze at the supermarket tills and they’re having to stretch their budgets further to accommodate rising prices”.

And for thousands of households across the UK – who are also facing rapidly rising energy and fuel prices – there simply isn’t any more stretch in the budget. While 42% of households surveyed by Kantar said they were ‘managing’ the rising costs, almost a quarter (22%) admitted they were ‘struggling’.

For those who don’t have any extra to spend at the supermarket, the only option is to start taking items out of the trolley. And – as the charity Hygiene Banks points out – they’ll likely start with toiletries. Including items many of us would consider essential, such as soap, deodorant, sanitary products and toothpaste.

Indeed, a 2021 survey of 500 teachers commissioned by Boots and The Hygiene Bank suggested thousands of UK families were already suffering the consequences of hygiene poverty. It found 69% of teachers across the UK had observed children with poor hygiene because their parents couldn’t afford the basics. 

Issues reported ranged from unwashed hair to unbrushed teeth, with 42% of teachers surveyed stating they had taken matters into their own hands and bought products for pupils themselves.

Two-thirds (69%) of those surveyed said they believed the situation was getting worse as a result of the pandemic. And with inflation running rampant following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the problem has only intensified since then.

Food blogger and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe warned this week that, while much attention has been on rising food and fuel prices, “the cost of toiletries and personal care essentials are also rising steeply, which leaves many people unable to afford the basics needed for personal health hygiene and dignity”.

That’s why she’s teamed up with Superdrug for its Shop Smart campaign, which aims to “make sure people have access to the basic dignities in life, through a number of initiatives and offers”.

The tie-up with Monroe is quite the coup for Superdrug, which is making a push on its value credentials as it promises to freeze prices on 130 beauty and personal care essentials for a year.

In fact, the retailer has been taking action in this area for a while. As a result of a four-year charity partnership with Beauty Banks, Superdrug has over 100 donation bins across its stores nationwide, where customers can leave essential toiletries to help tackle hygiene poverty. 

And this month, it is introducing a Buy One, Bank One scheme, with the hope of increasing product donations as “demand rises and the fight against hygiene poverty intensifies”.

High street rival Boots has made similar moves, with 400 donation points in its stores collecting items that are distributed to communities and charities across the UK. Working with Hygiene Bank, Boots also has a ‘You Donate We Donate’ initiative that sees it donate four products for every 1kg of products donated in-store. 

Of course, these initiatives alone won’t be enough to solve the problem of hygiene poverty. But it’s encouraging to see the sector making an effort to tackle what is – in the words of Monroe – “fast becoming a hidden impact of the cost of living crisis”.