The ‘era of cheap food is over,’ warns Waitrose boss

9 May 2024, 08:17 | Updated: 9 May 2024, 08:21

Waitrose executive director James Bailey said he thinks the era of cheap food is coming to an end
Waitrose executive director James Bailey said he thinks the era of cheap food is coming to an end. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The boss of Waitrose has warned that the ‘era of cheap food’ is coming to an end.

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In an interview with the Telegraph, Waitrose executive director James Bailey said: ““I think we’re seeing the end of the era of cheap food because of the impact of that cheap food – not just on people’s health but the external impact, the environmental impact, the societal impact of that cheap food. We need to witness the end of cheap food and a reversal of the value of the food people are eating.”

He told the paper that he wants to see a shift towards “regenerative” farming rather than intensive farming methods.

“If food production becomes much less stable, you’re going to see prices going up anyway, but for the wrong reasons,” he says.

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“There will be tipping points where if you want tomatoes or lettuces in certain seasons, they’re going to cost more even coming from the UK.”

He said that climate change is going to impact  “the quality of the food, the availability of the food, and the price of the food”.

Recent data from Barclays Bank found nearly three-quarters (73%) of people are actively looking for ways to reduce the cost of their weekly shop - the highest percentage since Barclays started tracking the figures in January 2023.

Six in 10 (60%) shoppers said they had noticed supermarket products running out of stock, with fruit and vegetables, and eggs and dairy products emerging as the most cited items impacted.

Regenerative agriculture is centred around protecting the soil to improve its biodiversity and ability to store carbon with methods like avoiding ploughing, reducing fertiliser use, and using cover crops during the winter months to protect the soil. 

Waitrose is launching an initiative to support British farmers in switching to regenerative agriculture.

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