E-bikes, frozen berries and security cameras have been added to the list of goods and services tracked to calculate inflation in the UK, in changes that reflect the popularity of new technology and rising concern about the environment.
In its annual update to the basket of goods and services used to track inflation, the Office for National Statistics added 26 new items and removed 16 from the more than 700 that it selects as representative of what consumers typically spend their money on.
During the past three years items related to the pandemic, such as hand sanitisers, were added to the basket but this year the impact of Covid-19 “has faded”, according to the ONS.
Non-film DVDs dropped out of the collection, reflecting the rise in streaming services. Also out were non-chart CDs and digital cameras. Mike Hardie, ONS deputy director of prices transformation, said that the removal reflected “how most of us listen to music and take pictures straight from our phones these days”.
Instead, video doorbells and security cameras were added to the basket, together with soundbars and computer game accessories.
Hardie added that with many people looking to reduce their impact on the environment, e-bikes were also added, reflecting their rise in popularity over the recent years.
The changes also showed transformations in food preferences. Frozen berries were introduced for the first time, partly a reflection of the popularity of home-made smoothies. Dairy-free spreads were also added, expanding the range of “free from” products, capturing the growing number of people switching to a vegan diet.
Cooking apples were taken out of the basket, however, as few shops are now stocking them. Alcopops, low alcohol and typically brightly coloured drinks, have also fizzled out, together with packets of 20 super king-size cigarettes.
Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at online platform Interactive Investor, said that the latest inflation basket reflects a market “that is both increasingly technologically savvy and health conscious”.
The ONS is also introducing a new data source for rail fares, switching away from the index of regulator the Office for Rail and Road. Instead it will use 30mn price points provided by rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group. According to the statistical agency, this will provide “much more granularity and a better understanding of how rail prices are changing”.
The change is part of a wider transformation in the calculation of prices by the ONS. In the coming years it will rely less on collecting the prices of physical goods and instead use information and price intelligence from sources including supermarket scanners and retailer websites.