🔔 From mangles to air fryers – how the inflation basket has changed over the decades.

Author: Anna Bowes
13th March 2024

Are you an air fryer fan? Or have you bulked up your vinyl collection recently? These are just two of the items that have been added to the virtual basket of goods and services, used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to calculate inflation.

The Consumer Prices Index, often referred to as CPI, measures the rate at which the price of goods and services which are used by UK households, rise or fall. So, when CPI is higher, this indicates that it will cost more to buy the same items today, compared to the same time last year. And in order to calculate this change in prices, the ONS has created a virtual shopping basket, filled with a large selection of goods and services that we regularly use.

Because what people buy tends to change over time, so too do the items that are added to or removed from the virtual shopping basket. The ONS reviews this basket annually and the latest changes were announced this week. In the 2024 review, 16 items were added, while 15 were removed, out of a total of 744 items.

Amongst other things, air fryers, vinyl records, rice cakes, gluten free bread and spray oil were added, while hand sanitiser, sofa beds and whole rotisserie chickens have been removed.

Vinyl records were last included in the early 1990s but have been added back in following a resurgence in popularity. According to the BBC, this was led by the soaring success of Taylor Swift! Her album 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was the best-selling vinyl record of last year, selling 84,700 copies in the UK.

The spend on air fryers increased by over 30% between 2021 and 2022, securing their place in the basket this year.

On the flip side, as we move further away from the pandemic, people are using hand sanitiser less and less, which means it loses its place, and as some supermarkets have switched from offering whole hot cooked chickens, instead favouring smaller portions such as drumsticks or thighs, to satisfy the lunchtime food market, they are out too!

Of course, this basket of goods and services is very far reaching and as well as the obvious tangible items that you might go out to the shops to buy, it also includes services such as water supply, sewerage collection and of course, gas and electricity. But all in all, it means that while an overall inflation figure is announced each month, your actual inflation figure is likely to be very different depending on your spending habits.

How has the basket changed over the decades?

The ONS has been compiling this basket of goods for nearly 80 years, introduced in 1947, two years after the second world war had ended,

According to the ONS, in the 1940’s items added to the basket included mangles, women’s corsets and condensed milk, whilst in the 1980’s the duvet was added, plus several other distinctive items for the era including VHS recorders and video rental, microwaves and Vermouth – AKA Cinzano! The sales turnover of this branded Vermouth reportedly increased by 50% due to a five-year long advertising campaign featuring comedic actor Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.

Corned beef was another item included at the start, having become really popular during the war because of how rationed fresh meat was, but it stayed in the basket until 2005 before being replaced by other meats.

Another staple food, the fish finger, was added in 1962, becoming popular enough to be included after initially being launched in 1955 by Birds Eye. And the humble fish finger remains in the basket to this day – in excess of 1.5 million Birds Eye fish fingers are sold each day!

It's fascinating to take a snapshot of how things have changed over the years, but we should remember the reason for these changes – to record how the prices of items that we buy are changing. And unfortunately, although CPI inflation has fallen from a high of 11.1% last October, it is still sitting at double the government’s 2% target, at 4%. We’ll wait and see what next week’s inflation news brings.

If you’re worried about rising inflation and think you might be holding too much in cash, perhaps you'd like to explore other options, so why not get in touch.  We’re currently offering all those with £100,000 or more in savings, investments or pensions a FREE financial planning review with one of our TPO colleagues, worth £500. You can find out more here.