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Supermarket ‘basics’

February 23, 2009

This week Waitrose announced that it was finally caving into pressure and launching an essentials range of 1,400 cheaper basics. There’s been much talk about the supermarkets’ discount products: are they able to offer these low prices because they’re screwing the suppliers (again!) or is it because these are the scrapings from the food factory floor? And is there really any difference in taste?

The Guardian carried out its own blind tasting on Monday comparing leading food brands with the supermarket basics’ ranges across a selection of staple items such as tea and biscuits. The results? McVitie’s digestives reigned supreme, but Waitrose essentials came out on top many a time with their cheaper (and tasty) teabags and baked beans. It should be noted that cheap for Waitrose is not cheap in Tesco terms, but these items were less expensive than the popular brands. Tesco’s, while there’s no doubting their bargain basement prices, came bottom in the majority of the taste tests: so it might be worth buying better and eating less to get real value for money.

Poor value at Asda
Last week The Grocer reported that Asda’s heavily promoted Rollback price cuts amounted to a mere 1p reduction in around 50% of cases. So while shoppers are blinded by neon discount signs they’ll be buying more items and won’t notice that Asda’s food prices overall have increased by 2.6% since December.

On balance, if you care about good food, want to shop (relatively) ethically and would rather have consistent, sustainable pricing for your supermarket shop, go to Waitrose or Booths.

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