The boss of Iceland has said he “doesn’t know” whether the price of a pint of milk can be kept under a pound, but is “working day and night” to stop it.
Richard Walker made his comments on Amol Rajan’s podcast this morning, after joining a campaign to expand free school meals to children whose parents are on universal credit.
The food boss who has hopes to stand as a Conservative MP, admitted that “food insecurity is inevitably on the rise and it’s the households with kids who are most at risk.”
He warned that staples such as milk, bread and eggs were rising, with milk having gone up 50 per cent in his shops, as well as his competitors.
Walker added price rises are “worse for those struggling the most and it will get worse as well.
“I’ve got some cost prices currently on the table from some big branded suppliers that we haven’t stomached yet as a business, let alone have to pass on to our customers.”
Looking ahead to the winter, he said issues such as rising heating, fuel and food bills will increase pressure on people’s purses – while also fuelling inflation.
This comes after a major survey by the ONS found a range of 30 basic products had gone up by an average of 17 per cent, while inflation has now reached 10.1 per cent.
With milk now at 89p, he was asked by Rajan how long it would be until it becomes £1, he said “I don’t know.”
“But there is a lot of external pressures from the war in Ukraine to commodity price inflation to fuel to labour and fertiliser shortages, and everything else in between.
“We work day and night to keep those prices as low as possible. We also operate in a very competitive market, so we’re trying to keep those prices down.”
He admitted Iceland doesn’t make a profit on milk because “we’ve got a responsibility” to people.
“ There will be lost leaders we have to sell because our customers are simply reliant on it.”
Looking to enter politics with the Tories, Walker said he believed i “responsible capitalism” from businesses, where they accept “lower or no profits”.
“We have 800,000 kids living in poverty who don’t qualify for free school meals”.
The Iceland boss said according to Food foundation, which is the charity it is backing, in a ‘Food in the Future’ campaign, “it is estimating about £500m in first year, which is a lot.”
He called it an “investment” though, saying “I look at this like a businessman.”
“Investing in the ability of young kids to concentrate and learn is paramount so they’re not falling asleep because they’re hungry in school. And the government has made education an absolute priority so to me it seems like a very sensible investment.”
With oil giants making “exponential and outlandish” profits in the past few weeks, he said there is a “very clear case” for a windfall tax.
But, “we have to be very careful” about extending that tax to supermarkets who have petrol forecourts.