Brexit on the shelves

Consumers will likely face higher prices and poorer quality at the supermarket once the UK pulls out of the EU.

Grocery stores are a good place to look if you want to see the effect Brexit will have on consumers. And that effect will be negative, says Justin King, former CEO of Sainsbury’s, a large British food retailer.

"One can say very clearly what the direction will be,” King said, “higher prices, less choice, and poorer quality, because all of those dimensions have been improved by these open trading relationships that we've had over the last 40 years,” said King in a Business Insider report. “Brexit, almost in whatever version it is, will introduce friction, it will introduce barriers.”

King’s comments were supported by a recent Grant Thornton report, commissioned by the UK’s Food and Drink Federation. The report says Brexit could be disruptive to the industry because, in the food and drink sectors, nearly 40% of low-skilled workers and 19% of high-skilled workers are EU citizens. If those people leave, it could have a big impact.

Mike Coupe, King’s successor, tried to have a more positive outlook on the situation: "If we see customers' incomes being squeezed — and we are beginning to see a slowdown in that disposable income growth — supermarkets tend to do better, because people stop eating out and start eating in."

Like many grey clouds, this one has its silver lining in that Brexit is starting to have one of its intended effects: job vacancies because of EU workers leaving, reports another Business Insider story. In turn, that reduces the number of workers competing for each position, causing wages to rise slightly.

However, that does not tell us if the worker exodus is negatively affecting the food and beverage industry. Nor does it tell us if people, thanks to better wages, are eating out more, and eating in less.