New figures from the ONS show 17% of Britons have been unable to purchase groceries in the past two weeks because they were not available (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN / AFP via Getty Images )

Millions of people have been unable to purchase essential foods in the past fifteen weeks as bare shelves trigger storage.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that 17% of Britons – representing up to 8 million – were unable to purchase groceries because they were not available between September 22 and the 3rd of October.

Almost a quarter said they also struggled to find non-essential food items.

The data came out as Britain remains in the grip of a supply chain crisis, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson being forced to concede that food and fuel shortages could continue until Christmas.

The ONS study found that 60% of people said their shopping experience was different from what they usually expected.

About 43% complained there was less variety – while 14% had to visit more stores to complete their shopping list.

Some 13% also said they had to wait longer to get prescriptions, while 4% had to go to more than one pharmacy to get what they needed.

Meanwhile, a separate investigation from The Grocer found that a third of people either started stocking up on Christmas food and drink or plan to do so before the end of October.

CARDIFF, WALES - JULY 21: Low stock shelves in a Tesco store on July 21, 2021 in Cardiff, UK.  Supermarkets across the UK are dumping fresh produce and essentials as Brexit truck shortages combined with large numbers of staff isolated due to Covid frustrate efforts to restock shelves.  (Photo by Matthew Horwood / Getty Images)

About 43% of those polled by the ONS said there was less variety in supermarkets (Photo: Matthew Horwood / Getty Images)

Two-thirds of shoppers said they were concerned about shortages during the holiday season.

Supermarkets are now facing an increase in demand – as thousands of people pre-book their delivery slot online for Christmas.

Iceland reported a 409% increase in sales of frozen Christmas turkeys compared to the same period last year – and ordered an additional 20% to meet anticipated demand.

It comes as industry executives warn factories across the country face shutdowns this winter as rapidly rising energy prices could halt manufacturing in a bid to protect profits.

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A tesco supermarket

One in three people interviewed by The Grocer said they have started stocking up on Christmas food and drink (AP / Rex)

Production of products ranging from toys, clothing and chocolate to paper, cement and ceramics is under threat – amid fears that some factories will close their doors for good.

Former Tesco chief executive Sir David Lewis was appointed yesterday as the government’s supply chain adviser to offer advice on immediate and long-term changes to tackle the problem.

Downing Street said in a statement: “This includes both identifying the causes of current blockages and anticipating potential future blockages, as well as advising on resolutions either through direct government action, either through industry with government support. “

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