Porridge a thriftier start to the day as RTE cereal soars

With another heatwave (allegedly) just around the corner, shoppers are more likely to be thinking about cold cereals than porridge - but they could be missing out on some hot savings.

For the price of porridge has risen less steeply than ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals. In the past 12 months, the average volume price across the RTE cereal market has risen 10.1% year-on-year, from £5.03 per kg on 28 July 2012 to £5.54 on the same date this year. Porridge rose just 2.6% in comparison.

The price increase for RTE cereals has been led by branded products, which have risen 10% over the period, from £5.55 per kg to £6.11, while the supermarkets’ typically lower-priced own-label products have risen 6.7% from £3.29 per kg to £3.51.

And prices rose despite an increase in promotional activity on RTE cereals. The number of deals increased from the 211 promotions run between 28 and 29 July last year to 272 over the same period this year, although the average depth of deal remained static at about 26.5%.

The fallout from the poor weather last year and earlier this year continues to take its toll. Potato prices in the UK remain dramatically higher than a year ago, as a delayed crop this year coupled with low stocks across Europe results in extra-tight supply.

Pear prices are up by nearly 45% because bad weather in Northern Europe in 2012 cut production. On top of that, Argentina - the world’s largest pear exporter - also suffered a bad production run, pushing prices up even further.

Meanwhile, pepper prices are up 63.2% year on year because adverse weather conditions in the Netherlands have delayed the crop, meaning Dutch supply has struggled to take over from Spanish supply.

There’s better news for iceberg lettuce, though - good import supply has pushed prices down by 33.3% over the past month, and with the UK crop now moving into full production, prices are likely to keep falling.

The well-publicised woes of Britain’s cereal farmers - and particularly the poor quality and yield of last year’s wheat crop - have contributed to the pressure on suppliers.

Weetabix has been one of the highest-profile victims of the poor harvest. Work upgrading one of its sites to handle lower-quality wheat kept Weetabix Minis off shelf until June, and means Oatibix Bites are unlikely to be back on sale this year. Yet it has managed to keep price hikes below the market average, with the typical price of Weetabix products - which includes Weetabix and Alpen - rising 5.4% from £4.24 per kg to £4.47.

Last year’s UK oat crop also suffered from quality issues, and the volume of imported oats has risen from 50,000 tonnes in 2011-12 to 62,000 tonnes in the past year. However, any impact of this on the price of porridge has been partially offset by a steep increase in the depth of promotional activity - from a typical saving of 17.4% a year ago to 27.9% this year - accompanied by a slight rise in the number of deals.

As a result, the typical kilo price of porridge - not including the increasingly popular instant porridge pots - has risen just 2.6% from £4.63 a year ago to £4.75 this month, although this was down from a high of £4.85 in March and April this year.

Porridge pot fans haven’t been so lucky. A look at the price of porridge pots flags up the huge premium they are paying for convenience - and they may be paying more than a year ago. The average kilo price of pot porridge has risen from £16.23 in July 2012 to £17.60 this month - an 8.5% increase.

The news isn’t quite as bad as it first looks, however, with the price of many lines remaining static and much of the average increase driven by higher-priced premium products entering the market.