Skip to content

Astonishing Stuff on baby formula

The cost of infant milk remains at “historically high” levels despite some price falls in recent months, Britain’s competition watchdog has said, as it launched a full-scale investigation into baby and toddler formula.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found in November that the average price of infant formula had risen by 25% in the past two years and families could save more than £500 over the first year of a baby’s life by switching to cheaper powders. The findings were part of an analysis of pricing in 10 food categories, which also included milk and ready meals.

Busybody bureaucrats find that infant milk rose so much faster than general food inflation that they’re to pay themselves lots of our money to be busybody bureaucrats.

Hmm, sorry, what’s that? What was general food inflation over the two years to Nov 2023? Umm, looking it up it seems that in Nov 22 food inflation was 16.5% – so, that’s the increase in the previous 12 months. In Nov 23 is was 9.2%. It doesn’t quite work that we just add those together but good enough for jazz as they say.

So, general food inflation was 24.7% over those two years. Infant formula rose 25%. That 0.3% difference is something we must pay a bureaucracy £100ks a year per person – plus vast pensions and probably have to mint a CBE or two – to investigate.

Or, alternatively, we could just close down the CMA.

Yesterday, by choice.

22 thoughts on “Astonishing Stuff on baby formula”

  1. Milk prices spiked by much more than general inflation and are still higher than two years ago. Add in the other inputs that have risen in price then it’s hardly surprising.
    Can I have my money now?

  2. “ families could save more than £500 over the first year of a baby’s life by switching to cheaper powders. ”

    So why don’t they?

  3. “save more than £500 … by switching to cheaper powders”

    I’ve never understood paying for baby formula when milk comes out of boobs for free – save even more than £500!

    Ah, jgh you bigot, there are some women who can’t produce milk.
    Then it’s a medical problem innit, put it on prescription.

    But some women want the convenience!
    Then they’re paying for the convenience. If the convenience costs more than you’re willing to pay, do something else.

  4. Isn’t it forbidden to advertise baby formula, thus excluding competition where cheaper brands might be brought to the attention of mothers?

    Following a chronic milk formula shortage in the USA, regulations were relaxed to let in foreign products, so did this have anything to do with price increase in UK, ie diverting to export and reducing supply to the domestic market?

  5. I’d echo Jimmers. It’s actually surprising formula’s gone up to relatively little. It is, after all, at the “ultra-processed” end of the food market. So energy costs etc.

  6. Which is another way of saying that the energy costs in “ultraprocessing” food isn’t all that large a component of the price after all. Other factors (regulation, supply) would seem to be more important.

  7. milk comes out of boobs for free

    It is like the NHS, it is only free at the point of delivery. You spend a lifetime paying for the privilege.

  8. Actually, if general food inflation was 16.5% followed by 9.2%, then prices rose by 27.2%. If infant formula rose 25% over the same period then it rose at a *slower* rate than general food items.

  9. I’m guessing as with Free Sanitary products in Scotland the goal will be to put the taxpayer on the hook for providing a load of free stuff, alongside jobs for ‘Social Sciences’ grads to administer such programs – ‘because of the children’.

    Obviously less immediately damaging to the country than importing thousands of RoP adherents but still contributing to societal collapse in a less immediate manner.

  10. @JohnB, iirc the “shortage” in the US was actually caused by some regulatory twaddle that got applied, or over-reached, or something. So we can blame the bureaucrats for that too.

  11. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    The quality issues, both real and imagined, became such a thing in China that entire towns along the border in Hong Kong became filled with hundreds of shops selling nothing but non Chinese-made infant formula. Hong Kong ended up imposing limits on how much you could export.

    I struggle to believe that food has only risen around 25% over 2 years. It feels like a lot more.

  12. In the US a couple producers captured the government regulator and shut out competition, imports and innovators. Not as complete a disregard of the public as say, the US sugar growers, but close.

  13. I keep a keen eye on prices, seems to me that many brands have made good use of ‘inflation’ to push up prices. Generics have also gone up in price, but is the brands that seem to have risen most. Marmite comes to mind, and many others.

  14. @johnnybonk
    There’s a theory I advanced a few months back over petrol prices. At times of high inflation consumers lose touch with prices because they’re constantly changing & don’t check for competitive prices/alternatives. There’s just too much effort involved in doing so with so many prices changing. They get inured to it. So suppliers can get away with price rises they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Which, of course, pushes up inflation & round and round we go. And it takes some time of lower inflation for them to reconnect. If that were true, of course, you’d a sharp rise in profitability of suppliers following on, with the slope decreasing after.

  15. As I’ve been known to mutter occasionally. Much to most economics is simply codified folk wisdom. One of the economic claims about the undesirability of inflation is exactly this. That it means price expectations become unmoored and therefore things get out of control.

    Further, the general mess of price rises obscures relative price rises – between, say, petrol for an ICE and electricity for an EV. Therefore our decisions become unmoored again, as we don’t see, react to, relative price changes.

  16. On the subject of milk, I bought four pints at the weekend, and as it was the only item I bought I noticed it was £1.45. Hmm, a bit pricey, wasn’t it a pound and something just recently? Today I bought another four pints, same brand, same shop – £2.05!

    I still think of four pints of milk being “around a pound”, but thinking hard about it, that was probably about 20 years ago. And as I normally post on here, my food inflation doesn’t match headline inflation because I engage in substitution when prices change, so if my normal product gets more than a certain level expensive, I stop buying it and buy something cheaper.

    But I have no substitution for milk – and going up 25% in four days is amazing.

  17. @ Tim
    Thanks for confirming my theory. Although, to be honest, I’ve never heard an economist mentioning it.
    But it does put the lie to markets restraining prices. Markets can become dysfunctional. If I remember rightly, at the time the discussion was whether supermarket service stations were using inflationary times to hike fuel prices/profits & competition given as a reason they couldn’t.

  18. “But it does put the lie to markets restraining prices. Markets can become dysfunctional.”

    Sure, but to complete the circle. One of the things which makes markets dysfunctional is inflation, which is why inflation is bad.

  19. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    With the current trajectory of nitrogen demonization, standard European cheeses will shortly be a luxury item. And 99% of it exported to China.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *