Why Are Protein Bars Being Locked In Security Boxes In The U.K.?

It's not uncommon to find security tags and locks on items like clothing, beauty products, electronics, and other high-ticket items in the store. But you wouldn't expect grocery stores to lock something as trivial as a protein bar behind lock and key. Shockingly, however, shoppers in the United Kingdom are finding that everyday basics like protein bars, milk, and butter are now locked inside security boxes.

A Reddit user recently posted an image of the snack aisle at the British supermarket Tesco where individual packs of protein bars were locked inside security boxes. These were no fancy schmancy, limited edition bars either. The locked protein bars ranged from a mere £1.50 ($1.85) to £2.70 ($3.33) in cost. As it turns out, this bewildering event of locking away protein bars isn't limited to just Tesco.

Reports from as early as July 2022 show that grocery stores all across the U.K. have been putting security tags on food items. The reason for this is an increase in the cases of shoplifting due to the economy (via Independent). With soaring inflation and the rise in the cost of living, several Britishers are turning to theft as they deal with food insecurity.

Inflation and food insecurity has led to an increase in shoplifting

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, there has been record-high inflation all across the globe, and the U.K. was not immune. In October 2022, inflation there reached an 11.1% annual rate — the highest that it had been in 41 years (via House of Commons Library). As households continue to deal with the biting cost of living and severe food insecurity that comes with inflation, there has been a rise in cases of food theft.

Grocery store managers told The Grocer that these cases of shoplifting are very different from the norm. Where employees would usually look for regular suspects trying to run away with expensive luxury items, the more recent cases of theft have been for lower-priced basics. One store manager said, "The other day we stopped a pensioner who was trying to steal things like washing powder and shampoo. With the cost of living, people are going to have to start making choices." 

As a result, supermarkets in the U.K. have locked away all kinds of everyday items including laundry and dishwashing detergents, milk, butter, cheese, meats, and baby formula. Even protein bars have been locked inside security boxes. As stores attempt to battle a rise in shoplifting, will this become the new norm?