Inflation returned to its target of 2% in May, the first time it has hit this level for nearly three years, helped by an easing of price rises across a range of items including groceries, footwear and air travel.

While some everyday goods are now seeing prices falling year-on-year, such as milk and rice, this was partly offset by a jump in inflation for some products like eggs and bread, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

On an annual basis, the ONS said food inflation fell back to 1.6% in May – the lowest since October 2021 – which was the biggest factor in pulling the overall level of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation lower.

At one stage food inflation reached 19.6% in March last year, but has been steadily easing back since then.

The data shows there have been sharp slowdowns in the average price of breakfast cereals, which rose by just 0.4% in the year to May compared with 7.4% in the year to April; crisps (up 1.8% in May compared with 7.7% in April); chocolate (up 5.8% compared with 9.1%); pasta and couscous (up 0.4% compared with 3.2%); and pizza and quiche (up 2.0% compared with 4.6%).

A line graph showing the UK inflation rate, up to the latest figure of 2.0% for May 2024
(PA Graphics)

Some products are recording negative inflation – in other words, prices are falling year-on-year.

The average cost of fresh or chilled fish was down 2.6% in the 12 months to May, following a rise of 0.2% in the year to April; while cheese and curd fell more steeply in May (down 3.9%) than the month before (down 1.3%), as did jams and marmalades (down 6.2% versus a drop of 4.7%).

Low-fat milk was down 2.8% in the year to May, a slightly smaller fall than the drop of 4.3% in April, while butter fell by 4.4%, smaller than the decrease of 6.8% the previous month.

The average cost of margarine rose slightly year-on-year, by 0.4%, following a drop of 0.6% in April.

A bar chart showing how the inflation rate has changed for a selection of everyday household items
(PA Graphics)

But while the overall rate of inflation is down, prices are continuing to accelerate for some items, including tea (up 9.8% in price last month year-on-year compared with a rise of 5.6% in April); eggs (up 2.5% compared with 1.0%); bread (up 1.9% compared with 0.9%) and children’s shoes (up 2.6% compared with 1.8%).

The price of train travel was up 6.3% in the year to May, more than the rise of 4.7% in the year to April.

Petrol is more expensive than it was 12 months ago, with prices up 3.1% in the year to May compared with a rise of 1.5% in the year to April.

Diesel prices are also on the rise, up by 1.1% in the year to May compared with a fall of 3.3% in the 12 months to April.

Below is a list of examples of how the CPI inflation rate has either slowed or accelerated.

Two figures are listed for each item: the average rise in price in the 12 months to April, followed by the average rise in price in the 12 months to May.

– Examples where inflation has slowed, ranked by the size of the change:

Breakfast cereals: April up 7.4%, May up 0.4%
Edible ices & ice cream: April up 8.3%, May up 1.4%
Crisps: April up 7.7%, May up 1.8%
Passenger transport by air: April up 2.3%, May down 2.1%
Chocolate: April up 9.1%, May up 5.8%
Cinemas, theatres & concerts: April up 10.4%, May up 7.6%
Pasta products & couscous: April up 3.2%, May up 0.4%
Fresh or chilled fish: April up 0.2, May down 2.6%
Pizza & quiche: April up 4.6%, May up 2.0%
Cheese & curd: April down 1.3%, May down 3.9%
Mineral or spring waters: April up 6.7%, May up 4.5%
Coffee: April up 1.8%, May down 0.4%
Sugar: April up 10.1%, May up 7.9%
Rice: April up 0.5% May down 1.3%
Children’s clothes: April up 4.3%, May up 2.6%
Soft drinks: April up 3.4%, May up 1.8%
Women’s footwear: April up 0.4%, May down 1.0%

– Examples where inflation has accelerated:

Diesel: April down 3.3%, May up 1.1%
Tea: April up 5.6%, May up 9.8%
Butter: April down 6.8%, May down 4.4%
Petrol: April up 1.5%, May up 3.1%
Passenger transport by train: April up 4.7%, May up 6.3%
Eggs: April up 1.0%, May up 2.5%
Low-fat milk: April down 4.3, May down 2.8%
Yoghurt: April down 0.3%, May up 1.1%
Margarine & other vegetable fats: April down 0.6%, May up 0.4%
Bread: April up 0.9%, May up 1.9%
Footwear for infants & children: April up 1.8%, May up 2.6%