Thursday, January 21, 2010

Price comparison test at Waitrose and Tesco Metro - the premium for convenience

In my Cost of Living in London post , drcrab commented that the amount spent on food depends also on how often one eats out. I can't agree more. However, I suspect aother factor is whether you are into the Organic range or don't mind the Essential range, which often means non-organic and non free range, or in other words the equivalent of battery eggs - often purported to be, well, less healthy.

Paying a premium shopping at Waitrose

However, another less obvious factor is where you shop. In the spirit of comparing like for like, I went to two of the largest supermarkets in Canary Wharf, Waitrose and Tesco Metro (Asda, which is a distance away, was left out in this comparison), and ran a quick survey with three of the more commonly bought food items.

It was an eye-opener and here's my findings.

6 pack Walkers crisps 
Waitrose - £1.35
Tesco Metro - £1.28
Premium paid for Waitrose =  5.5%

Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes 500g
Waitrose - £2.33
Tesco Metro - £2.25
Premium paid for Waitrose =  3.6%

Medium size Free Range Eggs (pack of 6)
Waitrose - £2.82 (Waitrose in-house)
Tesco Metro - £1.56 (Happy Eggs Co)
Premium paid for Waitrose = a whopping 80.8%!

Two points to note here. Firstly, Tesco Metro is supposedly the more expensive in the Tesco chain (in the ascending order of prices - Tesco, Tesco Metro, Tesco Express) so imagine comparing Waitrose with Tesco but location matters here I suppose. Secondly, the Organic range in Waitrose is way more extensive as compared to Tesco Metro. If you're into Organic foodstuff, you are better off shopping at Waitrose.

The conclusion, buy Organic at Waitrose if you must but stick to other stores for all the rest of your groceries. The premium of that you pay for the convenience of shopping at one place does add up to quite a bit.

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drcrab said...

yes - must add though that Waitrose is seen to be the most 'atas' of all the supermarkets (like Jason's supermarket compared to NTUC!!); so even the same dried foods (same branded cereal) would be more expensive than the other places.

I know someone who's recently switched to Waitrose online (ocado) compared to sainsbury's (which is round the corner from her house and she says that the quality of meats in Ocado is very much better than that of Sainsbury's. So I guess it's quality vs cost.

I shop mostly at Sainsbury's even though the nearest big supermarket is Asda and I try never to shop at Asda (unless it's after 10pm since they are 24 hrs!) - only because I think the quality of the fresh food doesn't last as long. So unless you are going to use the meat/veg immediately (same day or day after) I wouldn't shop there - just my opinion though! :)

KWee said...

I found 9 free range eggs for <2 pounds in Waitrose just yesterday. Plus, you just need to get on the DLR to get to Asda, it's only 5 min at most. But I agree in general. The price differential for Knorr cubes is horrendous. However, it is easier to monitor Waitrose's reductions. just got 4 angus hamburgers for 1.85.

Christian said...

i honestly rarely bought at tesco as i don't think the quality of some fresh products is good. waitrose is pricey but the quality is also higher but it's where i shop for special occasions or when i fancy something really good, such that creamy organic coconut yoghurt

C K said...

I vaguely remember Jason's back home. I recall that it was stocked with mostly imported groceries, basically things that you can't find in our friendly neighbourhood NTUC. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's way more expensive for the same items.

I heard that the store's stock is invariably fresher as compared to that obtained from online shopping. I wonder how does Ocado compare with the Waitrose store itself.

You know what? If only there's an online price monitoring system.... that's something to think about...

As far as fresh food is concern, I agree that Waitrose comes out tops. But what about packed items? It seems that Waitrose is hoping that customers would shop for everything within its premises and earn the 'spread'. :)

yanjie said...

Even though I was on a student budget and squeezing a week of groceries to £15, I still went for Waitrose not because of convenience.

The vegetables were fresh enough to be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks. I get to buy it cheaper in bulk without wastage. Even if a vegetable is on offer as it is to be displayed until today, it remains in good condition for 3-4 days. And I'm referring to produce from the essential range, not the atas range!

As for the packaged items, I don't see mind-numbing names of chemicals in its in-house brands. And they always have good offers that are actually the same price as other supermarkets. Waitrose free range eggs, though more expensive (I really felt the pinch as a egg lover), is really of much better quality than other supermarkets. My friends commented how much more fragrant it is, and how much more orangey the egg yolk is (an indication of the amount of beta-carotene the chicken gets)

Besides, Waitrose's ethics with regards to food sourcing is clear, unlike a particular supermarket that got into a publicity scandal for earning a billion a week but sourcing from suppliers who don't even pay the min wage.

I must admit, there many times when I thought of buying from a Tesco that is just as far. But whenever I look at the quality of the produce, I wonder what's the value of it actually.

So what's an average 5% premium for better quality, ethics, animal welfare and convenience? If a £15-a-week student can say that, I'm sure more can.

drcrab said...

CK - there IS an online supermarket monitoring system...

- it compares 4 supermarkets and for those who do online shopping, you do match it for 4 stores, and then at the end, decide obviously which one you want to go for. I guess you need to factor in delivery charges (or whether it's free for over a certain amt of money spent) and whether they'll deliver at the time requested (up to 11pm sometimes)! Also the service! Some places will carry all the shopping in for you, others won't. some will take the plastic bags off you (save the use of plastic bags), others won't

have fun!

Ocado is very well regarded... I would imagine it's the same as waitrose.

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