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    Supermarkets told to stock essential budget ranges

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    Consumer watchdog Which? has stepped up its campaign that calls for supermarkets to ensure more essential value range items are stocked in their convenience stores, saying staple foods can cost more than three times as much if budget range versions are not available.

    In the worst example, Which? found shoppers could be faced with having to pay 246 per cent more for Asda’s standard own-brand Easy Cook Long Grain White Rice (1kg) at £1.80 than the 1kg Just Essentials 52p option. If no own-brand options were available, Ben’s Original Long Grain Rice (1kg) was £4.85 – 833 per cent more than the budget range version, stated Which?.

    Similar price differentials were found across all the supermarkets, including other products such as spaghetti and tea bags.

    Which? acknowledged there were likely to be differences in quality and ingredients between the different ranges of products. But it said shoppers who rely on supermarket convenience stores were likely to have a more limited choice than those who shop online or in larger stores.

    At a Tesco store, where the budget 52p Grower’s Harvest Long Grain Rice (1kg) was unavailable, shoppers had to pay £1.25 for the supermarket’s own-brand Easy Cook Long Grain Rice (1kg) – or 140 per cent more.

    Which? found the same price differences at Sainsbury’s as at Tesco, and also found that Hubbard’s Foodstore Spaghetti (1kg) at Sainsbury’s was 56p while the standard own-brand alternative Sainsbury’s Quick Cook Spaghetti (500g) was 75p, an increase of 168 per cent when comparing the price per 100g.

    Meanwhile, branded Napolina Spaghetti (1kg) was £2.50 – 346 per cent more than the budget version.

    Sue Davies, Which?’s head of food policy, said, “As millions struggle with increased food prices and other high household bills, it’s staggering that shoppers face paying over three times more for items if they can’t get to a larger supermarket.

    “Which? is calling on all major supermarkets to ensure expensive convenience stores are stocked with a range of essential budget ranges so that hard-pressed customers can afford important staple foods to feed themselves and their loved ones healthily.”

    Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said that food retailers are doing everything they can to offer the best value for their customers despite high costs throughout the food supply chain.

    “There is clear progress by retailers in the efforts to support consumers, with Which’s own data showing grocery inflation at its lowest level in 11 months.

    “The Competition and Markets Authority, the UK competition regulator, recently published its report showing how operational profits at supermarkets fell by almost half to just 1.8 per cent, as retailers protected their customers from rising costs. Furthermore, we have seen retailers cutting prices of hundreds of products in recent months – something barely acknowledged by Which.

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