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Shopping price war 2023: Woolworths vs Checkers vs Pick n Pay vs Spar vs Food Lovers

| Economic factors

With South Africans’ finances hampered by high inflation, many will be turning to house brand (white label) goods to help spread their budget.

All of South Africa’s major retailers offer their own branded staples. This includes plenty of fresh produce, long-life products and other non-food items.

This basket looks at ten food items and six non-food items that would likely be found in a standard middle-class basket.

Like last year’s basket, Woolworths, Checkers, Food Lover’s Market, Spar, Pick n Pay’s ‘premium’ store brand (PnP), and Pick n Pay’s No Name branded products are compared.

In terms of overall pricing, Checkers and No Name are tied as the cheapest house brand baskets.

Checkers offers the cheapest food basket overall, while No Name offers the cheapest non-food basket, with R2 separating the two baskets in each category.

On the other end of the prices, Woolworths had the most expensive food and non-food items.

Inflation 

South Africans have been battling high levels of inflation over the last year, with the annual consumer price inflation hitting 7.0% in February 2023 – up from 6.9% in January.

Stats SA said that the main contributors to inflation were food and non-alcoholic beverages; housing and utilities; transport; and miscellaneous goods and services.

In February, prices increased by 13.6% over the last year, an increase from 13.4% in January.

The 13.6% food inflation was the highest recorded change ever, equalling April 2009’s record.

The baskets across the five major retailers also showed large price increases; however, certain stores saw much higher inflation levels.

Woolworths’ price change was only 6.27%, well below the average of 12.96%.

However, BusinessTech’s local Spar saw prices increase by almost a quarter compared to April 2022.

PnP (16.21%), Food Lovers (14.72%), Checkers (14.62%) and No Name (15.42%) recorded percentage price increases in the double digits.

Price changes from 2022 to 2023 can be seen below:

Momentum Investment economist Sanisha Packirisamy warned that inflation could remain high in the coming months due to high food costs and higher medical aid prices.

Although not featured in our basket, Packirisamy said that recent price pressures come from bread & cereals and meat, recording 21.8% and 11.2% inflation in February, respectively.

She said that the increase in bread and cereals is due to higher wheat prices and the rand depreciating against the US dollar.

However, there is some positive news for meat prices.

According to the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), meat prices are set to decrease, with beef carcass prices starting to decline as consumer spending power faces increasing pressure and exports move slower than usual.

Nevertheless, prices for other food categories may be sticky if costs do not start declining significantly.

“Key factors that will contribute to food price inflation over the coming months include exchange rate dynamics and the extent of load shedding required. Sharp exchange rate depreciation has already prevented much of the observed decline in world prices from spilling into South Africa,” the BFAP said.

“Any significant appreciation in the coming months would have the opposite effect, easing domestic prices for agricultural commodities.”

Moreover, further price hikes in administered prices, including electricity, which is set to be implemented this month, could add further price pressures in the next several months.


Methodology 

We compared white-label branded items at Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Checkers, Spar, and Food Lover’s Market in Centurion. Prices were found in-store across stores in Centurion, Gauteng. If items were not available in-store, prices were acquired online or via confirmation from the retailer. Prices were gathered in the first week of April 2023.

All or Nothing 

This basket only looks at similar white-label branded items across the five retailers.

For Pick n Pay, a PnP branded item would be used if a No Name version of the product was not available and Vice Versa. This is based on the idea that a shopper would be able to fill a basket of Pick n Pay’s store-branded items in one shop.

In addition, Spar runs separate franchises, so prices in one store are not always applicable in another store. We thus used the prices at our office’s local Spar in Centurion.

Since last year’s basket, we’ve excluded two items – Parboiled Rice Long Grain and Butter due to unavailability at the retailers.

Food Lover’s Market and Checkers do not currently stock 2KG Parboiled Rice Long Grain, while Checkers does not stock its own 500g white-label butter. These products were also excluded from the 2022 basket for a fair comparison.

Quality is not considered 

This comparison only looks at pricing and does not compare the quality of products.

Although Woolworth’s R49.99 chutney may be of superior quality compared to Checkers’ R24.99 chutney, these items are compared as they are the cheapest option at their respective stores.

In all cases, the most comparable and cheapest version of the store-branded product is chosen.

As close as possible 

We did our best to find items that are found across all retailers in similar quantities, however, we did allow for some minor discrepancies.

For instance, Woolworths sells Tomato sauce in 565 g bottles compared to Pick n Pay’s 700 g bottle. However, we counted them as similar items on the basis that a customer always buys a complete product.

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

 

 

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