/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Rising prices – do supermarkets give value for money?

A shopping trolley in a supermarket aisle

The cost of your weekly food shop is going up, so now is a good time to find the best-value supermarket. Our survey results show that quality products and good customer service can be just as important as price.

The price of food is currently a major worry for many consumers, with three quarters of UK adults in our monthly poll naming it as a concern. Latest government statistics show that food prices have risen by 4.5% in the past year, much faster than wages.

And that seems to be influencing what you buy. Our supermarkets survey took a peek inside the shopping bags of more than 11,000 Which? members and discovered that the ranges that are becoming more popular are mostly from ‘discount’ stores Aldi and Lidl, or from value ranges at other supermarkets.

Four in 10 Aldi shoppers are buying more own-brand products in the last six months than they did a year ago. The Waitrose Essentials and Morrisons Value ranges have also become more popular. Meanwhile, shoppers are tending to buy less from Tesco’s Finest range.

Balancing your food budget

When it comes to the best performers, Waitrose topped our survey with a satisfaction score of 82%. Customers awarded it five stars for customer service and fresh produce quality, as you might expect for a supermarket that has a reputation built on high standards.

At the other end of the scale, Tesco scored just 45%. Its customers awarded it low marks across all criteria, including pricing. Tesco is often perceived to be a supermarket that competes on price, but it looks like the customers are looking for more than just a bargain.

Even though food prices are creeping upwards, it appears shoppers take more than price into consideration when shopping for their groceries.

Shopping in cyberspace

We also asked customers to share their views on the supermarkets’ online shopping websites and delivery services. Doing your weekly shop online is growing in popularity thanks to the extra convenience and time savings.

Now, Tesco had a better score for its online shopping service, mainly thanks to the helpfulness of their drivers. Sainsbury’s scored well for online shopping deliveries, with five stars for their driver service and four stars for pricing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top score went to the online delivery specialists. Ocado scored highly across all criteria apart from substitutions. With a quality service and competitive pricing, Ocado have set the bar high for the supermarkets to follow.

Which supermarket do you think gives you the best value?

Aldi (25%, 572 Votes)

Lidl (14%, 309 Votes)

Asda (13%, 292 Votes)

Waitrose (12%, 279 Votes)

Morrisons (10%, 230 Votes)

Sainsburys (9%, 199 Votes)

Tesco (6%, 139 Votes)

I don't know (5%, 112 Votes)

Marks & Spencer (3%, 67 Votes)

The Co-operative (1%, 31 Votes)

I don't shop at supermarkets (1%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,253

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Belly of pork: local leading butcher £6.00 per kilo,
another local one (Dewhurst) £5.00, Tesco’s £5.39 and an
ethnic supermarket, just £2.99… and every bit
as fresh and as tasty.

I’m a fan of Sainsburys for an excellent range of high quality food – I now usually use their delivery service as it is free for over £100 purchases and always within the chosen delivery time slot. – So a delivery every two weeks is convenient – and saves a £5 parking fee each shopping trip. Nowadays the number of good small local food shops has plummeted – leaving just a couple of much poorer supermarkets that I wouldn’t shop at anyway and an ethnic supermarket that has limited choice. All the rest of my purchases are made on-line because it is SO much easier to search for a particular purchase – and often very cheaper even with additional P & P.. But I do occasionally go to the Shopping Mall to browse – so I can also spend my Nectar points collected from my Sainsburys Shopping on-line

I do two shops now – a first pass at Lidl for the essentials and any offers there and then a lesser shop at Sainsburys for anything not available at Lidl. I buy alot of fruit, veg and meat at Lidl – price differential between those at Sains is crazy – cucumbers for example 40-60p at Lidl near a quid at Sains – Milk is a quid at Lidl £1.18 at Sains – repeat that difference across fresh foods and it really adds up.

Now I don’t need to do this, I earn a good wage (and get some pretty surprised looks when I say I shop a Lidl) but I fail to see the point of paying more for equally good supplies through pure laziness or snobbery. I can put my money to better use…

I’ve also been using Lidl for the past 5 yrs or so, and to a lesser extent Aldi. I admit they have a more restricted choice of goods, but everything is of very high quality, and the prices are crazily lower! I then tend to call at Morrisons for small amount of remaining shopping. I’m very happy with Lidl and must have saved hundreds of £££s over the years. Top tip: sign up for email alerts, and check each week for amazing special offers on non-food lines.

I should add the Lidl and Sains are right next to each other which makes things easier

Lidl’s fruit and veg prices are cheaper
than at Sainsburys but not significantly
so…. cheapest are the greengrocers
and street market stalls.

brian j says:
20 February 2013

I seem to be a little out of step with other which members…I feel that there is something of ” The Emperors New Clothes ” about waitrose. Yes the staff are lovely and the shops pristine but I feel much of the fresh produce, although beautifully presented is of average quality and very expensive. A couple of pre prepared meals my wife and I have purchased have been decidedly bland tasting……just my view…

Long given up shopping at Sainsburys as being the most
expensive… for example thick bleach at 87p each at 750ml, wd
cost just 60p at Waitrose for same amount, for 2-litre size, just
£1.50 at Waitrose.

Of course when Sainsburys dark chocolate branded digestives are
reduced to half price, might pick it up …. not much else besides,
I’m afraid, for my weekly shop.

BTW their alcoholic beverages are not too good either or cheap.

the dragon. says:
20 February 2013

We don’t consider ourselves as being badly off and would say straight away that we are long term John Lewis fans. We have been without a Waitrose for some time but were pleased when a new store opened near us recently. After several visits I have to say that the prices for some of the fresh produce are a great deal more than we are accustomed to paying in Tesco or Sainsburys locally and we are reluctant to shop there for that reason.

Because I am such a fan of their business methods and brilliant staff I am sure we will try again but I can understand why people on a tight budget would shy away.

Incidentally, we visit ‘Costco’ about six times a year and stock up on dry goods, wine, toiletries etc
and more than recover the cost of our membership. A great deal of what we buy there is a third less than our Tesco shop. I wish we had a store near us, we could even buy our day to day groceries their. By the way, their online site is no indication of their warehouse prices.

I also wish that there was a British owned warehouse club that could compete with them but realise that it will never happen.

Harry says:
20 February 2013

I’ve been buying at Tesco mainly because its the store that’s still open when I pass it at about 11.30pm. Its no good buying frozen food on the way TO somewhere, you have to buy it on the way back home.

Tesco has many good features, but many problems too. They move products around unnecessarily which is extremely annoying. The aisles at 11.30pm are always clogged with stuff that hasn’t yet been put on the shelves. They should leave these out the back until shelf space and staff are available. Worse, they’ve recently started using annoying electric trucks with a constant bleep bleep bleep that’s audible throughout the store. But why? Surely, the person operating the truck should be trained not to drive it into people, instead of expecting them to get out of the way.

Those trucks are the final store. I’m actively looking for another supermarket, but where? If one of the other supermarkets stayed open until midnight I’d probably be using it instead. At the moment I have to make a special journey to get there before they close, which apart from wasting my time is bad for the environment.

Like you, I often call in at Tesco late in the evening, on the way home from a meeting or other event. By far the biggest problem is being forced to use the confounded self-service tills, so I do try to complete my shopping before the proper tills close at 11 pm.

I prefer the bleeping of electric trucks to the thought of walking round an aisle into a moving truck. At least Tesco does not inflict music on its customers, which I find far more irritating. My local store used to have music playing from display audio equipment but I kept turning it off out of sense of public duty. Pallets and boxes of goods are often put out when supermarkets are less busy, allowing staff to stack the shelves.

Coppers says:
20 February 2013

Anyone mentioned Booth’s supermarket chain from the North of England? Not the cheapest (but see where that concept has got us) but plenty of staff who seem to have time for everyone.

Buying good, fresh, simple ingredients and doing the cooking oneself cuts cost where ever one shops. I agree that convenience is important. Our local Coop is the nearest store and I get to walk there in fifteen minutes, buy enough for now and hoof it back up the hill. Bigger grocery shopping is done at Tesco, because they are open, free car park and they’re big enough to do a one stop shop without missing too many items – absent from the shelves. Staff know where everything is and they aren’t much different from the near-by Morrisons, which can feel a tad claustrophobic in the centre aisles. Tesco cafe is poor, Morrison’s is good. Our Asda, some distance away, has a distinctly dingy feel to it. It may be cheap but I don’t find it cheerful. You have to spend £5 to get the parking ticket back. One has to get used to the German stores with their unusual brand names, lack of credit card payment and pack it in bins mentality. Undoubtedly, there are bargains to be had and I can understand why some resent the other supermarkets for over-charging. Fruit and veg is also fresh there. I work to a budget too, but feel that traipsing round various stores is just plain hard work and so, keep things simple. Perhaps I’m lucky to be able to do that.

Ken Tan says:
20 February 2013

Time and again after checking my till roll I find that Tesco are always wrong on ‘special offer prices’.
Needless to say, the error is always in their favour. It has got to the point now where I just wont shop there any more.

At one time, Tesco proudly advertised that in event of an error, customers would be given a refund of the overcharge and given the product free. I remember this in my local Tesco store and benefitting from it a couple of times, albeit only for cheap products.

Tesco soon stopped advertising this price promise and eventually withdrew it in 2007:

When Halfords opened a store nearby they advertised that they could get parts for any car, but soon stopped advertising this service.

I think your comments about the lower cost supermarkets and the growth in “value” food might now be somewhat tainted by the recent “horsemeat” scandal. It is not about horsemaet of course – this is just a symptom of the lack of control many retailers seem to have over what goes into the food they sell – if they don’t know the source of their meat ingredients, then they won’t know the sources of other ingredients.
What amazes me is the long chain between producer and retailer in these cheap foods, and the number of agents involved. They will all be taking their profit, so just what “value” is there left in the food content of a cheap meal?
This may wake many people up to to the perils of cheap processed food, and tempt them into learning to cook again with recognisable ingredients sourced from a reputable retailer. A slow cooker might be a good investment.

A further comment – according to the ONS the average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks in 2010, ranged from 10% to 17% of household income, the elderly being at the higher end. This is much less a proportion than years ago when I believe around 50% was spent on food.
This means that, for example, a 10% increase in food prices impacts the household by just 1% to 1.7%, with more opportunity than there used to be to switch spending from other areas for many. Food prices are rising for reasons such as population growth, poor harvests, but at least we are in a better position than we used to be to absorb them. No one wants increased prices, but not a panic situation.

keith hodges says:
20 February 2013

we have sorted our shopping through long experience

ASDA – basics ****
ALDI- basics ****
Tesco – avoid

Sainsburys – used to be **** – not used since they stopped the real money vouchers
M & S – Specials ****
Waitrose – Specials ****

Local Markets ***** fresh fuit & veg
Local Farm ***** beef and lamb

I voted Lidl but cannot understand why there prices Lower than Lidl same Owners i shop at Aldi.Tje nearest Lidl is miles away sometimes they have goods that Aldi do not sell.

John L says:
20 February 2013

The flaw in this comparison is that the sample used in drawn from Which? members; a self selecting demographic of mainly middle class shoppers who will be drawn to the higher end of the market such as Waitrose and M&S. How does Which? normalise the results to reflect the number of Tesco shoppers who are members compared to the number of Waitrose shoppers? Would Which? get the same result if it used a randomised sample of the general public? I suspect not……

‘The flaw in this comparison is that the sample used in drawn from Which? members; a self selecting demographic of mainly middle class shoppers who will be drawn to the higher end of the market such as Waitrose and M&S’

I think there is a tiny flaw in your argument, since Aldi & Lidl both came out above M&S!

John L the same could be said about where people in the survey come from prices are different in the North than London or the Southwest.Our High streets will die unless they change opening hours later opening Later finish many people have to shop at Supermarkets because the High street shops are closed after they finish for the day.I was very shocked coming through well off area Town of Altringham Cheshire so many shops Empty it was awe-full but then parking charges there are high or were.

In many places in the Orient, trades or businesses are open
till Ten at night seven days a week, much much later in the
case of eateries… into the wee hours, I would say and
parking is never a problem.

Long way to go, though, Argonaut.

Most of us initially equate value with costing less.

However, if we want quality for our money, then perhaps some of the “cheaper” supermarkets may not fare so well.

In the present economic climate many shoppers go for the cheap option rather than value. I found that buying better quality means I buy less, waste less, and it goes further. But then when I’m faced with what’s in my purse at the time the better quality product often stays on the shelf.

I’d hate to see Marks and Sparks food take a tumble in quality, because a review like this considers that it’s not “value”.

We use M&S and, like you, don’t equate value with low price – prefer quality at sensible prices. For example, have you tried their flat iron steak – 6 for £10? Sausages – 48 for £10 for the freezer, all forequarter cuts of pork apparently. Not advertising for them, but tender tasty meat at a sensible price. It is a myth that good quality food is expensive. I think many people think of quality as well as price, so don’t see M&S or Waitrose becoming casualties.

Unless I am out and about, most of my food shopping comes from Tesco. I am no lover of Tesco but is the only local supermarket and the only decent local shop, a butcher, closed down years ago. I have a friend who loves food and good value for money and I’m one of a group who benefits from good offers from various supermarkets (including the budget ones like Aldi and Lidl) even things I have missed in Tesco. I am impressed by the quality of what comes from Waitrose and M&S, though I think they should decrease the fat content of some of their ready meals.

PS- I usually shop at Co-op or Sainsbury’s, they’re close to us and I think they have escaped the poor sourcing food scandal….

They may stock Findus or Birds Eye? What worries me more than the specific issue over horsemeat is that this just demonstrates the lack of control – deliberate or otherwise – that some large companies have over the products they have prepared for them. What other ingredients do they not know about, or ignore, that may be much nastier than horsemeat? It is the manufacturers’ and retailers’ responsibilities, and they should be heavily fined if they transgress – apart from poor publicity this may make them think a lot harder about putting cost before acceptable quality.