'Basket of goods' reflects Britain's changing spending habits

Richard Edgar

Former Economics Editor

Headphones, protein powder and e-cigarettes are included in the average 'basket of goods'. Credit: Britta Pedersen / DPA Germany

Britain is a nation of good intentions: trying to get fit and put on muscle, perhaps while listening to inspiring music at the gym and making a valiant effort at giving up smoking.

At least that's my interpretation of the latest annual update to the 'basket of goods' that are measured each month to give us an accurate picture of inflation.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just released its assessment of changing spending patterns.

Included for the first time in its measure is protein powder which has made the crossover from being used by body builders to a mass-market, worth approaching £300m a year in the UK.

More: Craft beers and e-cigarettes show hipster tastes have gone mainstream in 2015

The gym bunnies consuming all this protein to build muscle (as well as melons and sweet potatoes - diets are changing) may also be behind the rise of headphones which are being bought in sufficient numbers to be noticed by the ONS.

And after buying headphones to supplement the ones that come free with their smartphone, music fans are also subscribing to online music services like Spotify - also included in the statistics for the first time.

E-cigarettes and their refills are included in the list used to measure inflation. Credit: Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press

New year¹s resolutions seem to be holding for some former smokers: e-cigarettes and their refills are included in the list as people make the switch, according to the ONS

The official statisticians venture into the unfamiliar world of interior decoration as well, declaring that white emulsion paint is out. Does this reflect the march of the posh paint maker Farrow and Ball and its imitators?

Lounges and bedrooms up and down the country, sport coloured walls with moody names like 'Elephant¹s Breath', 'Mouse's Back' and 'Dead Salmon'.

If you have splashed out on colour, rest assured that your walls are feeding into our understanding of monthly price changes.

Liver is back in the basket to reflect the growing popularity in the UK for offal. Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

There are some puzzles as well.

Liver is back after being removed from the list (and from my family's menus) in the 1990s. Apparently I should update my plate.

This is how the Daily Telegraph reported the trend in January: "According to the consumer research group Kantar World Panel, value sales of offal in the UK totalled more than £34 million in the year to January 2015, up by more than 13 per cent on the year before."

Liver is being included as an easy way for the statisticians to reflect the broader appetite for offal - although sales of liver actually fell a little over the past year.

Sat navs are out of the basket as people use other methods to get where they need to go. Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA WIRE

A couple more items reflect the way our lives are changing: sat navs are out as more and more people either use their smartphone's navigation or they buy a car which has already got navigation built in.

And foreign exchange commission is being removed from the list. It's not that we're not going abroad, but when we do, we tend to use credit and debit cards instead of buying foreign notes before we leave the UK.

Shareholders in those companies seeing their businesses can drown their sorrows with a craft beer, however.

Microbreweries and their products are taking the country by storm and, guess what, the price of bottled speciality beers will contribute to the measure of inflation.