Food and drink market update - Oct / Nov 2023

20 October, 2023


Recent data reveals that food prices experienced their initial monthly decline for the first time in two years. However, although the headline inflation rate has now started to slow, it’s important to note that we are not yet in a period of deflation; CPI is still at 6.7% and food inflation remains stubbornly higher at 12.1%.

The landscape we are now seeing is still volatile and mixed, with some categories continuing to see significant inflation while others have started to soften. We therefore continue to use every opportunity to mitigate the impact of inflation, ensuring we are buying as competitively as we can.

Prices of milk, cheese, and eggs decreased but with butchery production costs have remained high, mainly due to rising fuel and fertiliser expenses. The spike in natural gas prices is the key driver behind increased fuel and fertiliser costs, which might continue into the winter months.

Avian influenza has become a global issue; the extensive vaccination effort aims to reassure the trade, but the risk of another substantial outbreak remains a significant concern.

As we move into autumn and winter, changes in weather and temperature conditions mean we have to move out of local supply to Europe and further afield for seasonally sourced fruit and vegetables. This pushes inflation into the business, as it brings additional transport costs, import costs and higher pricing to ensure availability. Outside of this seasonal change in origin there are several other factors affecting autumn and winter pricing, some examples of which are detailed below.

UK key market movers (CPI)

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) is a key measure of inflation in the UK. Movements in CPI give a high level overview of the key categories experiencing inflation. Below is a monthly snapshot of the top food commodity price inflation movements impacting the UK.

October 2023 - Percentage change over 12 months

  • Vegetables - 14.4%
  • Sugar, jam, syrups, chocolate and confectionery - 13.9%
  • Breads and cereals - 13.5%
  • Milk, cheese and eggs - 12.3%
  • Oils and fats - 10.9%
  • Meat - 10.6%
  • Fish - 8.7%
  • Fruit - 6.2%

The above data is from Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Key price movements by category:

Fruits & Vegetables and Fresh Orange Juice

October has brought an abundance of apples, versatile fruits that can be used in a wide range of sweet and savoury dishes. Look out for varieties like Discovery, Braeburn, and the classic Cox apple, all now available.

Pears, from the reliable Conference pear to the flavorful Comice pear, are currently at their best.

For a more traditional touch in autumnal menus, quince is now available. This late summer fruit, known for its distinctive knobbly yellow skin, is a perfect choice for making preserves, pastes or jelly.


As the raspberry and strawberry season draws to a close, there are some quality concerns, resulting in shorter shelf-life for these fruits. Given the limited availability of imported products, there's a continued reliance on UK-grown berries.

Blueberries are also in short supply.. Blackberries are currently in ample supply and offer a fantastic choice for seasonal berries.


Quality issues have emerged with South African lemons as the season nears its end. It's worth noting that the cost of lemons is expected to increase due to a transition from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere.


Small to medium-sized oranges are in extremely short supply.

Fresh Orange Juice

The supply of fresh orange juice from concentrate continues to face challenges due to the persistent issues previously highlighted regarding orange supply.


The timing of Ramadan has impacted labour availability and severely impacted pricing from Morocco in the past 2 years, reducing export volumes in March and April 2023 by 85%. This forced growers to sell product below the cost of
production, leading to many of them exiting the sector, which in turn is inflating prices.

Challenges persist with cherry tomatoes due to heat-related problems experienced over the summer, but there's gradual improvement.

Dutch round tomatoes are anticipated to conclude imminently, coinciding with the start of Morocco and Spain's harvest.

Supply of plum tomatoes remains challenging and is expected to be difficult for the next few weeks. This issue is widespread.

Tip: Given the rising prices, we recommend removing fresh tomatoes from your menus during the winter period and instead incorporate more seasonal root vegetables where possible.

UK Squash

The market is graced with a variety of UK-grown squashes, including Spaghetti Squash, Red Onion Squash, Green Kobacha, and Acorn Squash.


As expected, plenty of pumpkins are readily available.


Carrots are currently at their best.


The new season brings a fresher look and a subtle flavour to parsnips, similar to carrots.

Additionally, other noteworthy vegetables to consider this month include celeriac, leeks, and, for those seeking something a bit unique, parsley root.


Quality concerns have emerged as the UK broccoli season nears its end. Suppliers aim to address these during the packing process.

It's essential to note that the current market is quite tight, exacerbated by heavy rains in some parts of the UK, which have hampered harvesting, including fields being flooded. There are concerns that if the wet and warm conditions persist, there could be widespread quality challenges, potentially leading to rot in the fields.

The Tenderstem crop still bears some impact from the wet weather experienced in August and September. However, the crop is expected to fully recover with the transition to Spain and Kenya.


Warmer temperatures have sped up cauliflower growth, resulting in fewer leaves and more exposed heads. Recent stormy weather and heavy rains have caused damage to cauliflower heads, affecting quality.

The transition from summer to winter cauliflower varieties is underway, leading to decreased availability until the winter crop arrives. Initial indications for the winter harvest look positive, with the cauliflower curd possibly having a slightly creamier hue.


Availability of red chillies is limited, mainly due to reduced availability of Portuguese produce. While alternatives exist, it's expected that availability may pose challenges in the short term.


UK supply has finished for the season, so supply is being drawn mostly from Spain, Italy and other European countries over winter. This also drives additional import costs.

Whole head lettuces, including iceberg, lollo, oakleaf, and cos, will shift to Spanish produce.

Dutch salad products will gradually wind down throughout the month, making way for cucumbers and peppers sourced from Spain and Morocco. It's important to note that produce from Southern Europe may have a more rustic appearance compared to Dutch products. However, this does not impact the quality of the produce in any way.

Tip: Introduce more of the heartier warming pulses, grains and pasta salads to your menus, or watercress, lambs lettuce, and corn salad if you would like to keep a leaf option on the menu over the next season.

Fish and Seafood

Salmon prices are expected to rise significantly from the start of November, broadly driven by annual demand where businesses are buying large scale, processing and freezing stock.

Monkfish prices eased last month but are already rising again in anticipation of Christmas demand.

Plaice prices have eased due to landings being plentiful.

Tip: We strongly recommend chefs switch out of salmon over the coming months until prices begin to come down. In the meantime, chalk stream trout is a great alternative!



  • Cattle prices averaging around 4.70/kg
  • Growing demand for seasonal cuts, particularly roasting joints, diced, and steak meat
  • Rib-eyes in high demand in both retail and foodservice
  • Slight decrease in beef production compared to the previous year
  • Lowest slaughter numbers for the year in August, keeping markets stable
  • Potential shifts in international beef markets due to interruptions in Brazil's trading dynamics, such as further BSE cases
  • Arrival of Australian beef volumes due to the Free Trade Agreement, with no significant impact on UK beef market.


  • The pig meat market sees reduced production, higher prices, and lower consumer demand
  • Price of pork legs have seen a substantial increase due to carcass imbalance in the market, resulting in increased sliced meat costs.
  • The total pig population in the UK has declined by nearly half a million since June 2022
  • Net margins from production costs are positive
  • New pricing levels for pork products possible.

Tip: Within the sliced meats category, pork still represents best priced sub-category. Look to switch away from beef to pork.


In August, deadweight lamb prices averaged around 570p/kg, with a slight drop from July. They peaked at nearly 581p in mid-August but then decreased to around 546p/kg by September. This decline is attributed to larger throughputs and the full UK lamb season until the end of 2023.

Despite the price easing, UK lamb remains in high demand. Processors are limiting availability for food service outside of retail, focusing on strong export demand. Demand for UK lamb saddles from the EU through retail promotions is keeping prices stable. This demand for saddles and lamb fores is putting pressure on other cuts, especially shoulders, in the autumn.

Saddles, chops, and lamb racks are expected to maintain elevated prices due to limited UK lamb supply, while lamb shanks are reserved for export as haunches. The imported market shows no immediate signs of change.

Poultry Market Overview:

  • Stable poultry supply in the UK
  • Strong demand from the foodservice sector, particularly for thigh meat and wings.

Turkey Prices and Seasonal Trends:

  • Turkey prices at their lowest point
  • Expected to rise from September to December due to seasonal demand
  • Concerns about potential impact of bird migration and avian influenza on prices.

EU Poultry Market:

  • Poland is the largest poultry producer in the European Union
  • 1.6 million tonnes of poultry produced in H1 2023, a 7% increase
  • Anticipated poultry production growth in Poland due to strong export demand and high internal consumption
  • Persistent risks include high production costs and potential bird flu outbreaks in autumn and winter.

Sources: A David UK, BBC UK, Birtwistles UK, Dole UK, Foodbuy.

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