Spoiler – your supermarket shop is more expensive than this time last year and buying free from products is still more costly.

Families living with food allergy spend an extra 14p on every pound spent by those who don’t need to buy alternatives and free from, according to research commissioned by the Food Standards Agency and now we can reveal how much some family free from staples have increased in price between January 2022 and January 2023.

We know this is a huge issue for families and so we asked parents and carers of children with allergies to describe their experience of supermarket shopping over the past year.

“My shopping spend has increased substantially, but that is not only due to the allergy products.”  Cordelia

“..there really is no choice but to pay it as I have to keep my daughter safe and fed.”  Sammi

“Shopping has become increasingly difficult and a constant worry about price increases and availability.”  Lisa

Counting the cost

It’s nearly a year since The Allergy Team first wrote about the cost of living with food allergy and it continues to be a subject of concern.

We’ve been recording prices in four of the major supermarkets: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrisons.

Free from food prices

We have concentrated on common family foods: pasta, bread, milk, margarine/spread, cheese, cookies, chocolate milk, pitta bread and their free from alternatives.

All but a couple of free from products have gone up in price over the past year, these are some of the biggest price changes we’ve recorded*.

“In less than a year (my son’s) bread has gone up over 50p, doesn’t sound a lot but £2.10 plus for a small loaf of bread and it only covers 4 days’ packed lunch.”  Catherine

What’s in our sample basket?

We’ve included a range of family foods in our sample shopping baskets and then compared what it would cost to buy free from and non free versions in the four supermarkets.

Then we compared this year’s basket with the same basket last January.

How much more expensive is a free from shop than non free from shop?

As the table above shows, the cost of our sample shopping basket went up for everyone between January 2022 and January 2023. But families shopping for the products we’ve been tracking, who buy free from food, still pay more for their sample basket than those who don’t buy free from**.

A year on from our initial look at the cost of shopping for a family with allergies, the picture is still a little bleak. But there are some positives too. The Allergy Team’s founder, Sarah Knight says “Yes, prices are still higher if you have to buy free from goods but with the gap closing between free from and non free from products, perhaps the food industry and society generally will have more sympathy with those of us who’ve been paying more for years because of our children’s condition. We have to hope that will lead to action to make prices fairer for those of us who have no choice but to buy free from foods.”

In addition, although having to shop in multiple supermarkets is still a real bugbear for families living with food allergy, some parents and carers have told us they are finding a better range of free from foods on offer in store.

The FSA has commissioned research into the financial burden of living with food allergy and other types of food hypersensitivity. You can read more here.

Thanks to all the parents and carers who contributed to this article.

*All prices correct on 9th January 2023

**Please note, not all products were available in all stores, where this is the case the product was omitted from both the free from and non free from baskets to enable price comparison. For a full list of the products included in the baskets at each supermarket, please see below.

Full list of products included in our basket comparisons

Tesco – Free From

  • Tesco Free From Penne Pasta 500g
  • Genius Gluten Free Soft White Farmhouse 535g
  • Alpro Junior Growing Up Soya Drink 1L
  • Pure Dairy Free Buttery Spread 500g
  • Tesco Free From Coconut Oil Alternative to Mature Cheddar 200g
  • Oatly Chocolate Longlife Drink 1L
  • Bfree Wholegrain Pitta Breads 4x55g

 Tesco – non free from

  • Tesco Penne Pasta Quills 500g
  • Tesco Crusty White Farmhouse Loaf Sliced 400g
  • Tesco Semi Skimmed Milk 1.13L (2 pints)
  • Tesco Buttery Spread 500g
  • Tesco Medium Cheddar 400g
  • Tesco Chocolate Flavour Milk 1L
  • Tesco 6 White Pitta Bread

Sainsbury’s – Free from

  • Sainsburys Deliciously Free From Penne 500g
  • Genius Gluten Free Soft White Farmhouse 535g
  • Alpro Growing Up Soya Drink 1L
  • Pure Dairy Free Vegan Sunflower Spread 500g
  • Nurishh Vegan Cheddar Style Slices Cheese Alternative 200g
  • Oatly Chocolate Longlife Drink 1L
  • Bfree Wholegrain Pitta Breads 4x55g

 Sainsburys – Non free from

  • Sainsburys Quick Cook Penne 500g
  • Sainsburys Soft Medium White Sliced Bread 800g
  • Sainsburys British Semi Skimmed Milk 1.13L (2 pints)
  • Sainsburys Butterlicious Spread 500g
  • Sainsburys British Medium Cheddar Cheese 400g
  • Sainsburys Chocolate Fudge Brownie Flavour Milk 1L
  • Sainsburys Wholemeal Pittas

 ASDA – Free from

  • ASDA Free From Penne 500g
  • Genius Gluten Free Soft White Farmhouse 535g
  • Alpro Growing Up Soya Drink 1L
  • Pure Dairy Free Vegan Sunflower Spread 500g
  • Violife Mature Cheddar Flavour Slices 200g
  • ASDA Free From Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscuits 150g
  • Oatly Chocolate Longlife Drink 1L
  • Bfree Wholegrain Pitta Breads 4x55g

ASDA – Non free from

  • ASDA Penne 500g
  • ASDA Soft White Medium Bread Sliced 400g
  • ASDA Semi Skimmed Milk 1.13L (2 pints)
  • ASDA Sunflower Spread 500g
  • ASDA Ten Mild Cheddar Cheese Slices 250g
  • ASDA Smart Price Chocolate Chip Cookies 250g
  • ASDA Chocolate flavoured Milk 1L
  • ASDA White Pitta Breads 6 pack

Morrisons – Free from

  • Morrisons Free From Penne 500g
  • Genius Gluten Free Soft White Farmhouse 535g
  • Alpro Growing Up Soya Drink 1L
  • Violife Mature Cheddar Flavour Slices 200g
  • Oatly Chocolate Longlife Drink 1L
  • Bfree Wholegrain Pitta Breads 4x55g

Morrisons – Non free from

  • Morrisons Penne 500g
  • Morrisons Medium White Bread 400g
  • Morrisons British Semi-Skimmed Milk 1.13L (2 pints)
  • Morrisons Mature Cheddar 400g
  • Morrisons Chocolate Flavoured Fresh Milk
  • Morrisons Stone Baked Wholemeal Pittas 6 pack