Pester power: 82% of British parents spend more on snacks during school holidays, but there’s hope on the horizon this Easter

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Anyone and everyone - adults and kids - will get two toasted crumpets when they Ask for Ellen at Morrisons Café. Pic: Warburtons/Morrisons
Anyone and everyone - adults and kids - will get two toasted crumpets when they Ask for Ellen at Morrisons Café. Pic: Warburtons/Morrisons

Related tags Easter school holidays

Research by the Warburtons Foundation found children, on average, ask parents for a snack three times a day during the school holidays.

With food prices still high, the UK bakery manufacturer has again partnered with Morrisons to hand out free toasted crumpets this Easter.

One hundred thousand portions – two toasted crumpets with butter (vegan spread available on request) and jam – will be available across all 397 Morrisons Cafés between Monday, March 25-Sunday, April 14.

To get the free treats, all consumers have to do is Ask for Ellen. No questions asked.

The latest giveaway comes as research commissioned by the Warburtons Foundation found 35% of parents have to go shopping more often to keep their children satisfied during school holidays.

“As families continue to feel the financial pinch as we head into the Easter break, we’re looking forward to providing a little support for those who might need it,” said Jonathan Warburton, chairman of the 5th​ generation bakery giant.

The highs and lows

Food inflation ONS

While inflation may have dropped, food prices remain high.

The UK inflation rate was 3.4% in February 2024, down from 4% in January, according to Statista. Between September 2022 and March 2023, the UK experienced seven months of double-digit inflation, peaking at 11.1% in October 2022, partly in response to the conflict in Ukraine, but also a legacy of the pandemic, which placed strain on global supply chains.

The UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported food inflation climaxed at 19.2% in March 2023, the highest annual rate in over 45 years. In January, food price inflation fell to its lowest level (7.0%) since April 2022, down from 8.0% in December, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Although the rate at which food prices are rising has slowed, they remain high, rising around 25% between January 2022 and January 2024. In the 10 years prior to this, food prices rose by 9%.

As such, the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) said the cost-of-living crisis is still real for many consumers. According to the grocery industry researcher, ‘Food affordability will remain an issue for many UK households in 2024 – better affordability is likely to come slowly, via higher incomes, rather than lower prices.’

“There is a real divide between mainstream society and those on the lowest incomes,” Michael Freedman, IGD’s head of economic and consumer insight, said in a statement.

Food inflation ONS 2
Source: Office of National Statistics

So, it’s little wonder the Foundation’s research found more than six million families notice an hike in their weekly shopping bill during the school holidays.

The research – which surveyed 2,000 parents of school-aged children – highlighted that 82% of parents spend more on snacks to keep up with demand from their offspring. On average, kids pester parents for a snack three times a day during the school holidays, with 35% of parents relenting to pressure and shopping more often.

No questions asked

Aiming to ease the additional financial strain on parents, the ‘Ask for Ellen’ campaign is back for the second year running, following the success last year that saw 300,000 portions crumpets dished out during the summer holidays and autumn half term.

Named after Warburtons’ ​founder, Ellen Warburton, the 5th​ generation family business has been passionate about supporting charities since it was established in 1876 and continues to do so today through the Warburtons Foundation. Since founding in October 2022, the Foundation has donated over 2.25 million bakery products to schools and food banks, with ambition to reach 1.5 million products by September 2024.

The Warburtons/Morrisons collab is also designed to give a little support to families who feel the impact of no free school meals and breakfast clubs during the holidays.

According to an ONS survey on how increases in the cost of living impacted people’s lives between October 18, 2023, and January 1, 2024, one in 25 adults reported they or their household had run out of food and battled to afford to buy more.

So, from next week, anyone and everyone – adults and children – can ‘Ask for Ellen’ at any Morrisons Café to receive two toasted crumpets with butter (vegan spread available on request) and jam for free. No questions asked. The offer will be available all day, while stock lasts.  The offer is limited to one portion per customer per day and cannot be exchanged for cash.

“During our ‘Ask for Ellen’ initiative last year, we served a mammoth 300,000 portions of crumpets and expecting to serve a further 100,000 free portions of crumpets to families up and down the country as part of the scheme this Easter holiday,” said Jonathan Warburton.

Kiddies colouring in competition

Kids drawing Getty art-4-art
Pic: GettyImages/art-4-art

Additionally, with 44% of parents stating their biggest challenge during the school holidays is to keep their kids entertained, coloring and activity sheets will be handed out with the crumpets.

Taking it a step further, budding artists are invited to enter a competition to win on of 10 Warburtons Hampers and six Morrisons shopping vouchers (1 x £50 and 5 x £20).

Entrants must send their design, name, age of entrant (if under 18) and phone number via email to, or by post to Press Office, Warburtons, Hereford House, Hereford Street, Bolton BL1 8JB before April 14.

“We know our customers are grateful for the extra support that the Ask for Ellen initiative offers, and with the addition of a colouring and activity pack, we hope it can continue to help brighten their day,” said Chris Strong, Morrisons Café buying manager.

Morrisons continues to provide its Kids Eat Free promotion all day, every day (families receive a free kids meal when purchasing an adult meal costing £4.50 or more).