/ Shopping

Has Ocado’s switch to M&S worked for you?

It’s been three months since Marks and Spencer became available on Ocado. Is it still a draw, or are you shopping online elsewhere?

To much fanfare at the start of September, Marks & Spencer products became available for delivery on Ocado, ending its long-standing arrangement with Waitrose. 

At the time shoppers were told that not much would change – Waitrose products would have an equivalent available from M&S.  

Which? research also demonstrated that people would save money – spending £2.74 less on M&S-branded products than they would on the Waitrose equivalent

So a different brand, but a similar shopping experience. Three months on though, is this still the case?

Price and selection may vary

There seems to be a difference between M&S and, well…. M&S. Back in October, shoppers noticed how prices on some M&S items were different in store than on Ocado

In addition to price changes, community member Alfa says she’s noticed the selection on Ocado appears to have changed as well. She told us that some brands have disappeared, while others have been replaced.

She’s also noticed some M&S products increased in price after three weeks. Alfa’s now decided to get a regular Waitrose delivery once a month alongside Ocado in order to account for some of her regular products not being available.

Still delivering for you?

If you’ve shopped with Ocado before, how has the M&S changeover been for you? Has it been a positive experience to get M&S products delivered, or have you started looking at alternatives from other supermarkets?  

Ocado was a popular option for many who shopped for groceries online during the spring national lockdown. 

When we asked back in July though, most of you told us that you’d be returning to the shops when the pandemic eases.

Now that restrictions are somewhat easing depending on where you live, have you been continuing to shop for groceries online, or have you been returning to the shops?

Helen Iden says:
29 December 2020

I am very unhappy with the switch to M & S. I like Waitrose with their own farms. I have also found a number of Ocado brand items have gone, substitutions are up and so many items I want M & S don’t have. My shop has also gone up in price so back to alternating between both and will probably opt for Waitrose in future as M & S can’t compete at all.

Get the feeling that Ocado are dropping branded items in favour of their M&S equivalent. Loch Fyne lemon sole is an example where Ocado stocked this for years but then only fresh sole available was the M&S one which was not rated as highly, maybe because of this it has been dropped. So only fresh sole available is now Dover sole which is more expensive

100% agree with you Phil.

On 19th December, The Juicy Meat Co. products had been cut to 20 products. Today there are just 15, so not looking good.

They do really thick steaks that will no doubt be replaced by M&S thin steaks that I definitely won’t be buying. I think Waitrose sell Juicy Meat Co. products so will be looking to buy them there instead.

M&S have really undercut other brands on cheese. No doubt as people buy the cheap cheese, there will be justification to get rid of the branded cheeses. Then watch the price of M&S cheese go up.

M&S are top of the brands list, they are often the only brand shown under categories on a product page.

I hate the way M&S are pushing out brands that we have happily bought for years and replacing them with their own brand. Even Ocado branded products seem to be disappearing. I have been a happy Ocado customer for over 12 years, but I don’t like what M&S are doing there.

My own biggest disappointment has been the long-running 3 for £10 offer: this has always been a great way to get a varied selection of meat and fish. Now the selection is much smaller, and so many of the M&S items are breaded. It just isn’t usable for a healthy meal, any more.

As some others have said, M&S products seem to have pushed out popular brands, or even some of Ocado’s own labels.

Another lockdown has shown the idiocy of getting rid of branded products and replacing them with M&S products. There are now many out-of-stock items as M&S cannot handle the supply and demand.

It is fairly obvious from the comments that customers are not happy losing their brands and being forced into buying M&S so it would be sensible to invite branded products back.

Surely the answer is for customers to switch away from Ocado, which has made a major commercial miscalculation – no doubt under financial pressure from M&S who thought they could just buy volume. Their product range is limited and does not appeal to everyone who generally like a mix of branded and own-label products with alternatives in each category.

Sainsbury’s home delivery service has served us very well throughout the last year or more and although we have done a bit of top-up shopping at M&S this has never been for essentials.

A small but significant percentage of what we buy each fortnight is not groceries and provisions [i.e. household, toiletries, health & beauty items] and it is very useful to have a supplier that can offer a wide range of such products to save having to order on-line or go out shopping.

If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic John, I would agree with you, but at the moment it is impossible to get regular deliveries from other supermarkets as Ocado has been my main food supplier for so long. After a very rocky start and feeling abandoned by Ocado at the start of the pandemic I now get regular deliveries, so am better off than many others.

Ocado Retail Q4 Trading Statements
Customers continue to embrace the full M&S range with the biggest selling lines coming from everyday essentials in the M&S fresh categories

That is a joke as most of the competition has been removed or M&S vastly undercut the prices of branded products such as cheese. M&S are almost the only supplier of many fruit and vegetables.

Melanie Smith, Ocado Retail’s Chief Executive Officer, said:
“We continue to make good progress bringing even greater choice, quality, and value to our customers following the switchover to M&S at the beginning of September. At Ocado Retail we are constantly looking to raise the bar even further and the addition of M&S products to our grocery ranges has enhanced what was already the widest choice of products available online.

That statement can only have come from an M&S person. Ocado might be bringing greater choice, quality and value to old M&S customers, but certainly not Ocado customers who see less and less choice and quality.

To add to my growing list of kicked-out products, my dairy-free mushroom soup has now been axed – organic Auga Champignon Soup with 50% champignons.

I think Ocado are in for a massive shock when it is safe to go shopping again. They are alienating their old faithful customers for what? M&S customers? Pandemic customers? Reviews show M&S products are not as good as M&S think they are.

People are fed up with being stuck indoors and want to go out again which will include going into supermarkets and Ocado are giving them little reason to stay.

I am not convinced that supermarkets are unsafe for customers who take the correct precautions and observe social distancing. The majors have done a lot to protect their customers and expanded their home delivery services to meet demand. Perhaps it is local good fortune, but it has not been difficult for us to get convenient slots with Sainsbury’s and some slots are offered free of charge because of low demand.

Of course, if people panic and over-order then problems will arise.

A friend went to Lidl recently, was very satisfied with the arrangements, was pleased with her purchases, and saved some money into the bargain.

People are fed up with being stuck indoors and want to go out again which will include going into supermarkets and Ocado are giving them little reason to stay.”.
This is an attitude we have to deal with if we are to get any control of the epidemic. People must control themselves for the next few months and we must, where necessary, enforce the rules.
The question to put to people who refuse to take necessary precautions is “do you want to contract Covid and risk having a lifetime of severe health problem and possibly to die, and do you want to take the risk of doing the same to others including your own family and loved ones?”

It’s good to see you back John from your recent seemingly very entertaining medical experience, courtesy of NHS Norwich. I hope you managed to persuade them to serve you your usual Friday morning grapefruit on Christmas Day 🙂

Ocado is struggling to cope with the increasing demand for online deliveries at the moment, but their current system, which is supposed to prioritise the registered ‘at risk’ customers whereby you are allocated another delivery slot immediately a week after placing and paying for your first order and for which you are given 60 minutes to complete and also pay for a second order to secure it, is quite a smart move given that all their competitors, who also reap the benefit of their own supermarket stores, are now raising their stakes by improving their own online delivery services. In the current climate it could be argued this is one way to ensure regular Ocado customers are catered for. On the other hand, it could be deemed an anticompetitive stance to prevent regular customers from choosing to go elsewhere for their grocery supplies in the event of Ocado being unable to meet the current demand.

My daughter who lives about 100 miles away from me and always visits a supermarket store to shop for herself, managed to secure a next day online slot from Tesco delivered direct to my address to tide me over until the arrival of the Ocado delivery on 16th January. This uncertainty is proving quite costly as it often involves multiple payments before supplies hopefully finally arrive at your home address.

I suspect that Tesco introduced online supermarket shopping in UK. It must be about 20 years since my mum, who lived over a hundred miles away, used to phone me with her order and I would order the lot online and it would turn up at her door.

Amazon are now acting for Morrison’s but you can’t expect their usual excellent Amazon next day delivery for their fresh or other foodstuffs. .

Beryl – there was a degree of irony in my description of life on the ward. Some of the scenes and episodes were ghastly.

No grapefruit, nor any other fruit while in hospital, I’m afraid. The ban on visitors means there is no way of getting supplies. Otherwise the food was good.

And a few months later? We are now in April.

I would say it has got worse, though I am not sure how much of this is to do with M&S. For instance, Ocado stocked the Reflets range. However, ALL their fresh goods have been permanently removed. That means there is no longer a proper raw-milk camembert.

On the M&S front, stock levels have been all over the place. When they started, they had M&S branded tinned mackerel at an equal price to Waitrose. However, this week, the Olive Oil one has vanished and is marked as “no longer stocked.” The equivalent is 70% more expensive.

Note – Own brand versions of this from Morrisons and Tesco’s have always been much cheaper though identical. However, Ocado has NEVER used these to price match. Dodgy!

They have added a couple of very high-price beef products from Hawksmoor. But this is a rip-off priced product. My local farm shop does Aberdeen Angus from their own herd far cheaper and it is stunning quality.

I agree with you CC Hogan. Before last September, Ocado made their customers feel wanted, but now I just feel used – to line the pockets of M&S. They price-matched Waitrose to start with, but put many products up 5% within a month.

Hawksmoor steaks are the Juicy Meat Co. rebranded and given a 25% price increase. Hawksmoor had the same Dovecote Park address when it launched on Ocado but was changed to the expensive London restaurant later probably to justify the huge price increase. I wrote to the company who gave me some of the info.

One delivery, Ocado substituted Juicy Meat Co. ribeye with Hawksmoor and although there is less packaging, otherwise there is no difference in quality – they are both 400g 35-day dry aged. £15 for a rib-eye was bad enough and they are large enough to share, but there is no way I am paying £20. The Juicy Meat Co. was often available for £10 a steak so it just goes to show what a rip-off it now is.

Dovecote also produce the Waitrose own label beef, supply Tom Kerridge, Hawksmoor, and even Burger King! I have come across them several times. They are typical of the type of producer who creates a particular product offering for each client.

Davidstow do it too. They not only produce their own brand and produce for Waitrose and M&S, but they also produce exclusive cheddars. Till recently, those were only sold to people like Roux or Stein, but now you can buy it online from Davidstow direct. Actually, considering how amazing their 60-month cheddar is, it is not badly priced at £22 /kg (plus delivery, sadly.) They occasionally do it cheaper and it goes out of stock. But wow!

I don’t have a problem with high priced goods that are actually worth it, but when one company sells farmed seabass for twice the price you can get it at Aldi, then that makes me grumpy!

I learnt a lesson from my local farmshop. I wanted some flanken beef ribs (short ribs) for a bbq. What they supplied me were 6 inches long, 4 inches deep, and came in a packet of 4 for £7. And this is Angus.

“Why so cheap?” I asked. Two tiny ones at Waitrose were more than that.

The butcher blinked. “You have to order them in advance, because otherwise they go into the mince. So why would I charge you more?”

I am eating Davidstow (extra mature) from Waitrose at the moment, one of my favourite cheeses along with Castello Tickler. I see Davidstow is available on Ocado again so might add one to my next order.

I didn’t know you could buy cheese directly from Davidstow and a 60-month matured would be interesting.

Although M&S source their branded cheese from Davidstow, I hate what they have done to Ocado, so only buy their products if I have no other choice which has become more frequent as the competition is removed.

The switch to M&S can be summed up as lower quality, higher prices and less choice.
An increasing number of brands we bought through Ocado-Waitrose range reduced and replaced by poorer quality (tasting) brands often M&S’s own brand.
M&S own brand is constantly of lower quality and higher price than Waitrose own brand, we avoid where possible. Prices were up 1 month after the switch. There have been more substitutions and some of these have been ridiculous.
All in all we are very unhappy with the change, we are currently looking to test Sainsbury’s.

Elspeth de Boeck says:
15 June 2021

I’m very un happy since waitrose left. Ocado itself as a service provider is excellent. Great delivery availability, good range of non grocery items to help you out with other types of products and customer service is also great.
However, marks and spencers range is nowhere near as good as waitrose and I’ve lost out on things such as tinned mackerel, recyclable toilet paper, flush safe wipes as well as other things.
It does feel as though stock availability is suffering but not sure if that’s covid impacts marks and Spencer.

Elspeth – You might find that Waitrose deliver direct to your area. You then have the choice of their entire stock – both their own-label products and national brands. You can find out by looking on the Waitrose website and inserting your postcode. The partners who drive Waitrose delivery vehicles are noted for their smart turn-out, polite demeanour and helpfulness.

A question for Ocado customers – Do you keep finding unexpected items in your delivery?

I buy for 2 households, fill our trolleys in advance with everything we might need when they are in stock and remove items we don’t want a day or two before delivery. Our regular products are frequently out of date just before delivery, so sometimes I just remove them, sometimes I swap them for something else, other times I leave them in the trolley and it is pot luck whether they turn up or we get substitutes.

It is not unusual for most of your trolley to be out-of-stock the day before delivery. The majority of those items usually get delivered with just one or two substitutes or missing items. Looking at your trolley, it is not apparent items are out of stock unless you look at them individually.

Several times recently I have received items I didn’t want and thought I had removed them from my trolley. I have blamed myself for not checking the final order thoroughly, but is it really my fault or are we being manipulated into over-buying?

When a product is unavailable, it can either say ‘Out of stock’ and the product details will still be available, or ‘No more stock available’ and most of the details will be missing. The latter appears when a product is going to be discontinued . . . or is it? Very often that product comes back into stock, so how many customers fill their cupboards with it before it ‘disappears’ for good?

I have noticed more and more items not listed under their correct categories. Long-life oat milk under Fresh & Chilled, Frozen under Food Cupboard although they manage to appear in the correct categories on the electronic delivery invoice.

Ice Cream
Last order I remembered my mum wanted ice cream, checked the Frozen Food section in my trolley, saw there was no ice cream so ordered a different one as their usual one was out of stock. Then I noticed I had ordered their usual ice cream after all but it was in my trolley under Food Cupboard. Why would a product suddenly move category? And this is what prompted me to write this piece, because although these little niggles might seem very minor, these discrepancies keep on happening and are adding up.

Ready Meals
These are nearly always out of stock the day before delivery, so it really is pot-luck what will turn up for my mum. If you select Traditional British Meals for 1, only the items you have ordered that are in stock will be highlighted so you could easily think you need to order more. You have to make sure you look at each item in your trolley.

Wine used to be listed in your trolley under just one category – Beer, Wine & Spirits, but now it is easy to order extra bottles of wine by mistake as they are inconsistently listed in your trolley all over the place in various categories.

After adding numerous items to a trolley, the following list is the order that categories are listed with wine slotted in from top to bottom. French/Italian/whatever wine can appear in 3 categories. There is no logic to this list. Is it meant to confuse us? Con us into buying more because we don’t notice what we have already ordered?
Wine Cellar – wine
France – wine
Fresh & Chilled Food
Food Cupboard
Italy – wine
Frozen Food
New Zealand – wine
Argentina – wine
Soft Drinks, Tea & Coffee
Beer, Wine & Spirits – wine
Health, Beauty & Personal Care
South Africa – wine
Baby, Parent & Kids
Home Care & Cleaning
Home, Garden & Pets
Eastern-Central Europe – wine
Occasions & Entertaining
England – wine

Carrier Bags
The last couple of weeks, the delivery receipt has listed and charged for many more bags than have actually turned up. Being charged for extra bags seems to have got worse in the last year or so and many a week I have paid for one extra bag that I haven’t received as it seemed petty to claim back 5p, but 6 extra bags? A quick search reveals Ocado do around 330,000 orders a week. Bags now cost 10p so if every customer pays for one extra bag, Ocado are raking in an extra £33,000 a week that works out at over £1.7 million a year. And it is no longer just one extra bag.

Favourites and Last Bought Dates
My list of favourites keeps on growing, partly because I shop for 2 households and partly because Ocado keep adding items they think I want. Therefore, I have to keep removing items to make the list more manageable and useful.

As long as an item is in your favourites, it shows the date the item was last purchased. But now, if you remove the item from your favourites the ‘last bought date’ is also removed. There is little point in keeping items in your favourites if you never buy them from there, e.g. fruit & veg, and besides the last purchase date was always there to remind you what you last bought. Last purchased date was always useful for products I buy rarely or to stop me buying something I dislike and don’t want to buy again, therefore reducing waste.

It seems rather ridiculous that products can display M&S last purchased dates long before they joined Ocado but can’t show actual last purchased dates unless the item is in your favourites.

I used to trust Ocado, what has happened to them?

The 10p charge for single-use carrier bags was introduced in May: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/10p-plastic-bag-charge-introduced-in-england

I placed an order with Waitrose when my car was unwell and they reminded me to have my bags ready to save time when unloading the crates.

ocado_shopper says:
16 September 2021

Hi Alfa,

I’ve noticed all of these discrepancies as well. It is very frustrating when things are constantly ‘out of stock’.

Strange things lately, such as the entire frozen chips section being ‘out of stock’ for the past 3 weeks, as were the crisps!

Ready meals I had to give up on, as they were constantly out of stock and the few I settled on were then discontinued it seemed.

Random items like Ribena strawberry slowly disappearing, never to be found again.

I will soon be looking into Sainsbury’s again. I liked how Ocado often did not substitute last minute like other online stores, however lately they have done so many last min-substitutions, so I question why I pay a more premium price.

Not to mention the fruit and veg, fruit especially is very bad nowadays on Ocado. I have not tasted fresh grapes in months on their deliveries and wonder why I keep bothering to see if things have changed.

I suspect Waitrose used to keep Ocado on their toes.

As you say, everything has got a bit slack and random recently, so we’ve simply cut down on what we order from Ocado (easier to check what’s in the trolley) and top up with a weekend live shop from Waitrose. Ocado gets the minimum weekly order of milk, butter spread, eggs, crackers, lettuce and strawberries worth £40. Usually less than that by the time we’ve claimed for cracked eggs and a split package or two. We used to spend £90+ easily.

Regular complaints about ready meals packaged upside down got us nowhere. We don’t bother with those any more.

Hi ocado_shopper, nice to know I’m not the only one to have noticed.

Em, I suspect M&S are more shrewd and taking Ocado in a new direction as I didn’t think Waitrose had much of say in how Ocado was run.

As I checked out an order earlier, I was warned of an incomplete buy 2 for £4 offer. I clicked on the offer to see I did have two of the offer items in my trolley. I fell for this trick once before. One of the items was put in my trolley when it was on offer for £2 then I added the other after the offer changed. If you are not on the ball, you pay full price for both items.

I looked for runny honey and sorted it into Price Per: Low to High. First are Ocado and M&S, then another up in price then the price drops below the Ocado price. It only does this if you are logged in.

Red diamond strawberries have now been discontinued and as the fresh section in my trolley was not showing any, I added the Ocado ones that have mostly been quite good. But the red diamond strawberries were still in my trolley and had moved from the fresh section to the food cupboard section. Had I not noticed I would have received a substitution for the discontinued strawberries and ended up with 2 lots.

Many products are no longer in their correct categories when you look at your trolley. But they are in the right place on your invoice. That means they have gone out of their way to define products with more than one product category on their system. Why would they put items in different categories if it is not to confuse you into buying more than you want?

Ocado no longer stock many of our favourite products, too many brands have been replaced by M&S, booze is cheaper elsewhere, so I also get deliveries from other supermarkets.

The Hawksmoor Rib-eye (rebranded Juicy Meat Co at £14.99) has just been put up another £2 and is now £22. That is a whopping £55 per kilo.

Tesco Finest 35 day Aberdeen Angus Ribeye Steak is just as good at £35 per kilo!!!!

Shinsei says:
7 March 2022

I have shopped with Ocado since 2014, and when it was Ocado/Waitrose it was really good and I could get everything and quality and service was spot on. But since waitrose left and M&S stepped in, I have to shop between two shops now, Sainsburys and Ocado are now my shops online. I am really disappointed with the quality of stuff now since the M&S arrival. I have had whole batches of milk gone over eventhought he date has weeks to go, and other things not as good as was. Also just today got a shopping delivery, and the special K box was obliterated, fortunatly the inside packet was intact.
I really wish it had stayed Waitrose and Ocado, it was far better then. I don’t like M&S food products, too many times had dodgy stuff from them, that was why, also the cost, why I wouldn’t shop at M&S.
As far as I am concerned, M&S are bringing down the good reputation that Ocado had. They were perfect until M&S pushed their way in.

Shinsei — Could you not continue to shop with Waitrose , or are you outside their delivery area?

On price, I doubt if Waitrose would be much different to M&S overall.