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2.1% Rise in Aggregate Average Price of Supermarket Goods in 2022 “Staple Food” Top of the List Canned Foods Over 30% More Expensive than Before the Pandemic

  • 2023.04.17

The 3-year long pandemic had severely disrupted the global supply chain and logistics, at one point leading to panic buying by consumers who were worried about shortage of daily necessities. Subsequently, the average price of some supermarket goods soared then dropped between 2019 and 2021. The Consumer Council released the results of its annual supermarket price survey 2022, utilising electronic scanner data from 3 major supermarket chains to calculate the average price of groceries. The results showed that the aggregate average price of a basket of 260 items from the supermarkets surveyed was back on the rising track, up 2.1% over 2021, higher than the increase in the Composite Consumer Price Index (1.9%) over the same period, and the steepest hike since 2013. Nearly 70% of the goods (175 items) increased in price, with the top 3 product groups being “butter” (15.4%), “tea bags” (11.7%) and “cheese” (10.2%). Although “edible oil” ranked fourth in terms of price surge, its aggregate average price has been going up for 3 consecutive years, with a jump of 10.1% last year. The product group with the biggest decrease in average price was “wine” (-5.1%). In addition, the Council also used its supermarket price comparison tool “Online Price Watch” (OPW) to analyse the average prices of 80 items across 15 groups before and after the pandemic and found that the aggregate average prices of many types of canned food products soared by over 30% during the 3 years of the pandemic.

The results reflected that the cost of daily necessities like staple food and groceries has increased. As society is at the early stage of recovery and needs time to fully bounce back, the Council calls on supermarket groups to share and shoulder social responsibility by striving to control prices of necessities such as staple foods and groceries. At the same time, consumers should also shop around and compare prices for smart purchases.

Top 3 Product Categories with Highest Average Price Increase Were All Daily Necessities

As the traditional Chinese saying goes, “firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea” are all essentials for every family. Among the 13 categories of goods sampled in 2022, “staple food”, “non-staple food/seasoning” and “canned food” had the biggest average price increase at 5.4%, 4.8%, and 4.6% respectively.

Within the “staple food” category, which experienced the steepest hike, “edible oil” continued the upward trend of 1.9% and 2.6% increase in 2020 and 2021 respectively, and even by 10.1% in 2022. The average price of all 7 types of edible oil in the group went up by 5.2% to 21.6%, of which 1 item’s average price recording double-digit increases in both 2021 (13.2%) and 2022 (13.7%). As for the “rice” group, the aggregate average price increased by 1.3% in 2022, with two-thirds of the items (6 items) in the group taking a price hike, the highest being 15.4%.

The “non-staple food/seasoning” category was second only to “staple food” in terms of its price increase (4.8%) in 2022. The aggregate average prices of all 5 groups in this category all increased by 2.9% to 6.2%, with the highest increases in the “breakfast cereal” and “salad dressing/pasta sauce” groups, both by 6.2%. The average price of all 5 items in the “breakfast cereal” group rose from 3.2% to 10.9% over the past year, with the highest increase found in 1 instant oatmeal item.

Ranked third in price increase was the “canned food” category (4.6%), all 4 groups under which rose by 1.8% to 8.7% in average price over the past year. The 3 product groups with the largest price increase were “canned vegetable/fruit” (8.7%), “canned fish” (7.2%) and “canned soup” (5.9%), with increased average price recorded for all 12 items. Under this category, a total of 4 items recorded an increase by over 10% (11.2% to 17.4%).

Price of “Butter” Rose as Much as 20%
While “Milk” and “Eggs” Dropped 2.6% and 3.9%

Although the aggregate average price of the “dairy/eggs/bean curd” category only increased by 2.1% in 2022, the aggregate average prices of the “butter” and “cheese” groups under this category increased by 15.4% and 10.2% respectively last year, making them the product groups with the highest and third highest price increase in the year. The average price of all 7 items in these 2 groups increased, with 3 items in the “butter” group surging by 9.6% to 20.1%. As for the “egg” group, which has recently caught public attention concerning supply and price, the aggregate average price dropped by 3.9% last year, with the average price of only 1 out of the 5 egg items in the group increased by 4.5%, while the remaining 4 items dipped by 1.1% to 11%. If the data of the first quarter of 2023, during which there was an egg shortage, is compared with the first quarter of last year, the average price of 3 egg items available in 1 online supermarket recorded a surge from 9.4% to 20.2%. However, as egg supply returns to normal, it is expected that prices will stabilise again. Furthermore, the average price of more than two-thirds (5 items) of the 7 products in the “milk” category also dropped by 2% to 5.1%.

As for cleaning products under the “paper/household cleaning/pet food” category, despite a big leap in demand during the pandemic, its aggregate average price increased by a relatively modest 1.7%, the least among the 10 product categories that recorded an increase. Within this category, the average prices of the groups “toilet paper/boxed facial tissues” and “household cleaning products” increased by 1.9% and 1.6% respectively.

The price of goods was affected by various factors, and the global supply chain and logistics services were severely crippled by the years-long pandemic, which only started easing last year. However, necessities are not ordinary retail goods but the basis of daily life for the public. As it takes time for the economy to fully recover, it is even more crucial for traders and supermarket groups to exercise restraint in adjusting prices to facilitate community recovery as soon as possible.

Largest Dip of 5.1% in Average Price Recorded for Wine

Price Adjustments of Personal Care and Baby Products Varied

The “Beer/Wines” category had the largest cut in price in 2022 (-3.1%), within which the aggregate average price of the “wine” group fell by 5.1%, the largest reduction in aggregate average price across all groups during the year. The average price of 4 out of the 5 products in this group dropped by 0.7% to 12.6%.

In addition, the aggregate average price of the “personal care” category dropped by 2%. While the average prices of 3 groups, namely “shampoo”, “liquid soap/hand wash” and “sanitary protection”, dropped by 1.9% to 4.3%, the average price of the “toothpaste/toothbrush” group increased by 7%, with the average price increase of 4 items ranging from 0.1% to 23.7%. 1 mint toothpaste with a 23.7% price spike was the item with the highest increase among the 260 products sampled in this survey.

The aggregate average price of the “baby food/formula/diapers” category dipped by 0.1% in 2022. Within this category, the aggregate average price of “infant formula” and “infant diapers” dropped slightly by 0.2% and 0.5% respectively. However, the aggregate average price of the new “baby foods” group increased by 5.3%.

Overall Grocery Price in 1st Quarter of 2023 Rose over 10% Compared to 1st Quarter of 2019

Although the pandemic has largely subsided, the 3 years since early 2020 witnessed panic buying of different products from time to time. Based on price information of supermarket goods collected by the “Online Price Watch” tool, the Council compared prices of 80 items across 15 selected groups (including rice, edible oil, instant noodles, frozen dim sum/meals, canned food and toilet paper, etc.) that were available at 2 or 3 online supermarket platforms, and analysed price changes before and after the outbreak, i.e. from 2019 to March 2023 (as of 24 March), based on the prices in the first quarter (“Q1”) of each year. The survey found that aside from a slight decrease of 0.2% in 2021 Q1, the aggregate average price of the surveyed goods saw year-on-year increases in Q1 of 2020 (4.7%), 2022 (2.6%) and 2023 (4.5%) than in the same period of the previous year. Compared with 2019 Q1, the aggregate average price of the 80 items increased by 12% in 2023 Q1, within which that of 13 product groups increased by 0.7% to 39% during the outbreak (i.e. 2023 Q1 vs. 2019 Q1). The 4 groups of goods with the largest increases were all canned foods, including “canned vegetables/fruits” (39%), “canned soup” (35%), “canned fish” (32.6%) and “canned meat” (32.2%), all recording an upsurge of over 30%. The Council believes this was due to many households storing large amounts of foods with long shelf life during the pandemic in response to the stay-at-home and social distancing measures, leading to increased demand which affected product prices.

Make Good Use of “Online Price Watch” to Shop Wisely

According to the Census and Statistics Department, the underlying inflation rate in Hong Kong is expected to rise further this year but should remain moderate in the near term. Nevertheless, in view of the persisting high food prices, the Council reminds consumers to make good use of the Online Price Watch ( tool to compare prices across different supermarkets and retailers, in addition to visiting different stores to check out prices in person. The Council will continue to closely monitor price changes in daily necessities to assist the public in making smarter choices.



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