Supermarkets warn Boris Johnson return to imperial measures would lead to further price rises

·2 min read
Supermarkets  Kelly Wakeling arranges produce at her market stall ALK Fruit and Veg on Portobello Road, in London, Britain, May 30, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Supermarkets have concerns that move will push up price of goods because of relabelling. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

A return to imperial measures would drive up prices just as UK households are facing a cost of living crisis, UK supermarkets have warned.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is keen to bring back measurements in pounds and ounces and is expected to announce the move during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

BEIS, the business department, will launch a consultation on Friday looking at whether retailers should be able to sell products in imperial measurements rather than metric.

Reintroducing measurements in pounds and ounces would be a "distraction" from the country's problems and increase grocers' costs according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents some of the biggest supermarkets and retail chains in the country.

The price of groceries has risen by about 6% in the past year and some items, like pasta, have jumped by 50%.

Read more: Cost of pasta jumps 50% as inflation hits poorest households

BRC assistant director of food Andrea Martinez-Inchausti said: “Supermarkets are focusing on delivering the best value for their customers in the face of intense inflationary pressures.

“Introducing new laws to change the way we measure food and drink would both distract from this vital task, and add cost and complexity if existing products are required to be relabelled.”

The BRC pointed out that manufacturers and retailers are already free to list imperial measures alongside metric ones.

Joe Harrison, chief executive of the National Market Traders Federation, said it made little sense for stalls to shift back to imperial when most young people had grown up with metric measurements.

Harrison told the Daily Telegraph that the shift would be a “hassle”, adding: “For what purpose? Seems like it would just be hanging on to the past, nostalgia.”

The government has been accused of trying to “weaponise nostalgia” among Brexit voters at a time when the cost of living crisis hits hard-pressed families.

Read more: Sainsbury’s commits £500m to price cuts amid cost of living crisis

The move, however, has been embraced by some pro-Brexit politicians as a benefit of leaving the EU.

Appearing to confirm the plan, technology minister Chris Philp told Sky News: “It’s allowing a bit of our national culture and heritage back onto the shop shelf.”

The UK formally introduced the metric system in 1965, although there are some exemptions to the systems with beer, cider and milk still sold in pint measures.

Watch: Britain considers reviving imperial measurements