Thrifty Britain shifts to store brands

Britain has become a nation of discount shoppers, with tens of millions moving to cheaper supermarket brands.



The number of people buying store own-brands, rather than established names, has almost trebled during the past year from 25 per cent to 73 per cent, according to polling.

The price comparison website uSwitch.com suggested that an extra 31m people were buying supermarket own-brands in April this year compared with August 2009. Shoppers have also begun to cut out treats, to shop online and to use money-off coupons, according to its research.

The sharp rise of own-brand comes amid intense promotion from the major grocery chains, who have positioned them as a way to save money while buying the same amount.

Tesco launched a range of own-brand items with names such as Country Barn last year, promising to cut prices by £100m. Sainsbury's encouraged people to "switch and save" by buying own-brands, while Waitrose launched its Essentials value range this Easter to shore up sales.

Own-brand goods can be half the price of established brands. But while they can sometimes compete on taste, they are often nutritionally inferior because they use cheaper ingredients.

In its polling, uSwitch.com found that people were far more likely to employ money-saving tactics when they went food shopping this year than last year. Seventy-four per cent regularly used money-off coupons on their weekly shop, compared with 26 per cent last year. One in five now compares prices at stores online before shopping, more than treble the number last year.

Shoppers claiming that they never buy ready meals trebled from 10 to 30 per cent. Three times as many (15 per cent compared with 5 per cent) now shopped for groceries online.

Meanwhile more householders are growing their own food in back gardens allotments. Eight million people now grow their own, 19 per cent of the population, up from 9 per cent.

How to save on food bills has become a major theme of the recession. A new BBC2 series starting tomorrow, Economy Gastronomy, will teach millions of viewers how to slash their shop by planning each meal in advance and re-using leftovers.

At first, major grocery chains were caught out by the new attitude of thrift. When the economic slowdown started last year, millions of shoppers headed to the European "hard discounters" Aldi and Lidl. However, the major chain's own-brands campaigns, and selective price promotions which

have given the appearance of value, have slowed the haemorrhage.

uSwitch ventured that supermarkets were likely to emerge from the recession stronger. "As a result of 'pinching the pennies' becoming very much the new 'splashing the cash', figures suggest supermarkets may turn out to be one of the few winners in the recession. For example, Morrisons has just surprised the market with an unscheduled trading update indicating full year profits would be £70 million ahead of expectations. Share prices in Sainsbury and Tesco have also experienced a rise," it said.

Overall, the research revealed that nine out of ten UK adults now used "recession-busting shopping strategies" when they did the weekly shop.

The results accords with research in May from the Instutute of Grocery Distribution. Its chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch said: "As shoppers increasingly scrutinise every penny they spend they are shopping around more, wasting less, seeking out promotions, planning meals better and taking their time to find the best deals."

The IGD suggested that three-quarters of shoppers would keep their more frugal shopping habits once the recession ended.

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