SHOPPERS are paying a record 10.6% more on food than they were a year ago, as the war in Ukraine continues to drive the cost of products such as milk, margarine, pasta and cakes to new highs.

Overall, shoppers faced 5.7% shop price inflation in September, up from 5.1% in August, the highest monthly rate since the British Retail Consortium-NielsenIQ index began in 2005.

The figures underline the squeeze facing households, and prompted calls for ministers to help retailers battling a weak pound and higher energy costs on top of other cost pressures.

It comes as millions of families continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis, which has seen food, energy and mortgage bills skyrocket.

The cost of living is increasing at its fastest rate in nearly 40 years, driven largely by the rising cost of food and energy.

Overall UK inflation, which measures the rate at which prices rise, was 9.9% in August, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Inflation in food prices this month has climbed past the 9.3% reported in August, to 10.6% fuelled by the war in Ukraine, which is continuing to push up the price of animal feed, fertiliser and vegetable oil, with a knock-on effect on products such as margarine.

Fresh food products cost a record 12.1% more than last year, up from 10.5% in August, the highest rate for the category on record.

Inflation for some key items such as pasta and tinned tomatoes, has reached a record 8.6%, up from 7.8% a month previously, the fastest rate of increase for the category.

The Herald: Tinned tomatoes are a key ingredient of spaghetti bolognese. Picture: Pixabay

While products such as milk, cakes, biscuits and margarine have been rising sharply in price, other food items dropped in price over the month.

While the summer drought diminished some harvests, other produce benefited from the prolonged sunshine, helping to bring down prices for fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes thanks to bumper harvests.

Non-food inflation rose from 2.9% in August to 3.3%, driven mostly by bigger hardware, DIY and gardening products hit by rising transport costs.

Helen Dickinson, the head of the BRC, urged the government to ease the pressures on businesses saying it would allow retailers to charge the public less for goods.

“Retailers are battling huge cost pressures from the weak pound, rising energy bills and global commodity prices, high transport costs, a tight labour market and the cumulative burden of government-imposed costs,” said Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC. “And, with business rates set to jump by 10% next April, squeezed retailers face an additional £800m in unaffordable tax rises.”

Dickinson called on the government to freeze business rate rises so retailers can limit price rises for shoppers.

More than three-quarters of consumers surveyed by NielsenIQ say they expect to be “moderately or severely” affected by the cost of living crisis over the next three months. This is up from 57% in its summer survey.

“So households will be looking for savings to help manage their personal finances this autumn, and we expect shoppers to become more cautious about discretionary spend, adding to pressure in the retail sector,” said Mike Watkins, the head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ.

The boss of Aldi said earlier this week that shoppers were switching to the discounter "in droves" as the cost of living crisis continues to hit struggling households.

Aldi has gained more than 1.5 million customers in 12 weeks, UK chief executive Giles Hurley has said.

The German discount supermarket chain has recently overtaken Morrisons to become the fourth biggest supermarket in the UK.

According to retail research firm, Kantar, private label ranges now account for 51% of the market, compared to branded products.

Sales of the cheapest own label ranges are up by a third on last year.

More than 90% of products at Aldi are non-branded items.