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Shopping price war 2022: Woolworths vs Checkers vs Pick n Pay vs Spar vs Food Lovers

As South African households face rising prices amid high levels of food inflation, consumers will likely look to white label house brands to help stretch their budgets.

All major retailers in the country offer staples and common purchases under their own brands. This includes perishables like fresh produce, long shelf-life products, as well as a plethora of non-food items.

The previous BusinessTech household basket focused primarily on 12 common food items that would likely be found in a middle-class household’s shopping basket. It included house brands, but also had store-to-store comparisons for popular branded products.

For the 2022 basket, we’ve completely overhauled the basket to focus only on house brands, and for the first time have included non-food items. We have also included Food Lover’s Market.

While its roots and origins are tied to fresh produce, following the hard lockdown in 2020, Food Lover’s Market has expanded its range and pushed further into the grocery sector. This includes many non-food items.

In terms of pricing, a comparison of 18 like-for-like items across South Africa’s retailers shows that Food Lover’s falls somewhere in the middle market.

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Pick n Pay’s No Name brand is the cheapest house brand basket, but this lead comes down to just a few rands, with the Checkers Housebrand only R3 more.

Pick n Pay’s more ‘premium’ PNP store brand ranks as the second most costly basket, but is still over R100 cheaper than the most expensive basket, which comes from Woolworths.

Methodology

We compared prices for white label brands at Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Checkers, Spar and Food Lover’s Market. Prices were checked in-store at branches around Centurion, and cross-referenced online and via apps, where applicable. The prices represented are non-promotional and recorded in April 2022.

As with any comparison, the house brand basket carries its own caveats.

All or nothing

The basket only looks at the same or similar products across all five retailers. While Pick n Pay and Checkers have hundreds of store-branded items under the No Name, PNP and Checkers Housebrand umbrellas, the same items aren’t always available across all retailers.

As such, the items were selected for the most directly-comparable basket.

With Pick n Pay, where a PNP branded item was not available, the No Name version is used to complete the basket and vice versa. This is on the basis that a shopper would be able to complete the basket in one store, using Pick n Pay’s store brands.

Not comparing quality

An issue raised in the past is that items between different retailers are not comparable because they are not of the same quality.

This comparison does not account for quality and makes no findings on this basis.

It could be argued that Woolworths’ ‘premium’ chutneys at R49.99 are on a completely different level to Pick n Pay’s R22.99 No Name chutney – but these are simply the items that are available at the respective stores.

In each case, the most comparable, and most affordable version of the store-branded products is used.

Like for like-ish

The entire basket is built on the premise of finding specific items, at the lowest price, using store brands only. We’ve done our best to find items that exist across all retailers, in the same quantities.

However, like-for-like products are not always identical, and so to avoid having to standardise every price on a per-gram or per-sheet of toilet paper basis, we work on the assumption that a customer is always buying a complete product.

So a customer buying Pick n Pay’s No Name chutney (470g) is getting a bit more than the bottle from Woolworths (430g), but we are accepting that in both cases, customers are buying one bottle.

Sometimes this works in a store’s favour – such as Food Lover’s market which sells its white sugar in 2kg bags, counter to the retailer standard of 2.5kgs – and other times, it can be a detriment. A basket may be cheaper, but not necessarily 100% congruent.

As always, when it comes to pricing and shopping: buyer beware.

Read: Food prices jump most on record amid supply chaos

Artmotion S.Africa

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