Shoppers who regularly buy groceries from Tesco and Sainsbury’s convenience stores rather than bigger supermarkets are likely to pay hundreds more per year, a study has found.
Customers who buy the same 75 items at Tesco Express spend an extra £15.73 on average a week than those shopping online or at a larger Tesco store, according to Which?. Over the course of a year, this figure adds up to £817.91.
The watchdog also compared the price of 69 grocery items at Sainsbury’s and found that customers using a Sainsbury’s Local instead of shopping online or going to a larger store would spend an extra £477.93 over the year.
Which? said supermarket prices do regularly fluctuate, but its study found big increases in costs on individual items at Sainsbury’s and Tesco. However, not all items were more expensive at convenience stores.
Which food items are more expensive in convenience stores?
Own-label sweet potatoes were 95p on average when bought online or at a larger Tesco, but cost £1.30 on average at Tesco Express – a difference of 37%.
Mr Kipling Bakewell slices were £1.27 online or at larger stores, while at Tesco Express they cost 28% more at £1.62.
At Sainsbury’s the worst offender was Heinz Cream Of Tomato soup. This item was £1.15 online and at the bigger store, but £1.37 at Sainsbury’s Local - a 19% increase.
Similarly, Birds Eye Potato Waffles were £1.71 at Sainsbury’s online and in larger stores, but £2.01 at its Local outlets.
However, some food items were less expensive at the convenience stores. Anchor Spreadable Butter Tub (500g), Colgate Total Original Toothpaste (125ml) and Magnum Almond Ice Cream (4 pack) were all 3% cheaper on average at Sainsbury’s Local compared to supermarkets and online.
Tesco’s own-label unsalted butter block (250g) was also 2% cheaper on average at Tesco Express than at larger stores and online.
‘Shopping at a convenience shop comes at a cost’
The price differences are likely to affect those who are more vulnerable to food insecurity and do not travel to supermarkets for larger shops, do not shop online or do not have easy access to a larger supermarket.
In November, Which? published the Priority Places for Food Index developed with the Consumer Data Research Centre at the University of Leeds, which showed that seven in 10 UK parliamentary constituencies have at least one area in need of urgent help accessing affordable food.
Sue Davies, head of food policy at Which?, said the watchdog is calling on big supermarkets to “ensure everyone has easy access to basic, affordable food lines at a store near them.”
She said: “Convenience stores offer a local lifeline for some shoppers, but Which? research shows shopping at a supermarket convenience shop rather than a bigger store comes at a cost – at a time when soaring grocery prices are putting huge pressure on household budgets.
“We know the big supermarkets have the ability to take action and make a real difference to people struggling through the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.”
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “There may be price differences between convenience stores and supermarkets. This is because our Sainsbury’s Local stores are located in city or town centre locations and their operating costs, for example rent and rates, are higher.”
A Tesco spokesman added: “We work hard to ensure our customers get great value at Tesco, whether they shop with us online, in a large store or in an Express store.
“Our Express stores offer a range of extremely competitive own brand products, as well as offering great value deals through Clubcard Prices. Clubcard Prices offer customers up to 50% off on thousands of lines – from frozen food to branded cupboard fillers – helping them spend less with us.”