The supermarket chain Asda has committed to making its cheapest food ranges more widely available, after the anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe raised concerns that low-income shoppers were facing price increases because they could no longer get hold of them.
The retailer said it had taken onboard Monroe’s comments and would stock its full Smart Price and Farm Stores ranges in all 581 food stores and online, increasing the number of customers who have access to the products.
Some of the deals, which include 1kg bags of rice for 45p and tins of chopped tomatoes for 28p, had been taken off the website and removed from some stores as the supermarket streamlined its offer.
But last month Monroe pointed out that some shoppers were in effect facing triple-digit inflation because they were no longer able to buy products from these ranges and had to buy more expensive basics.
In one example she gave of an unnamed retailer, the cheapest 1kg bags of rice had been removed from the shelves, and the next alternative was a 500g pack costing £1, which worked out at a 344% increase.
She added that in her local Asda, the cheapest bag of pasta was no longer a 29p bag from the Smart Price range but an own-brand version costing 70p – a 141% price rise.
Asda said 150 value-range products were stocked in 300 stores currently, and by 1 March it would introduce all 200 of them across its outlets.
This week it increased the number available online by 100 to 187, and it will add more by the end of the month.
Meg Farren, Asda’s chief customer officer, said: “We want to help our customers’ budgets stretch further and have taken onboard the comments about the availability of our Smart Price range made by Jack Monroe. We are taking steps to put our full Smart Price and Farm Stores ranges in store and online to make these products as accessible as possible.”
The rising cost of energy bills and food is putting household budgets under pressure, and Monroe raised concerns that headline inflation figures do not capture the impact on those with the least money to spend.
She has set up her own index to track the cost of essentials, which she said would “document the disappearance of the budget lines and the insidiously creeping prices of the most basic versions of essential items at the supermarket”.
After she launched the campaign last month, the Office for National Statistics said it accepted that every person had their own inflation rate and it would do more to capture the impact of price increases on different income groups.
Monroe welcomed the move, tweeting: “Delighted to be able to tell you that the @ONS have just announced that they are going to be changing the way they collect and report on the cost of food prices and inflation to take into consideration a wider range of income levels and household circumstances.”