Supermarket prices fall just a myth, says Which?

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The Independent Online
THE conventional view that supermarkets are fighting a savage price war is a myth, according to figures from the Consumers' Association, writes Patrick Hosking.

Far from cutting their prices, the largest grocery chains have all raised them over the last year, a survey published today in Which? magazine suggests.

The cost of a basket of 32 everyday groceries rose by an average of 2.6per cent, say the researchers, who checked prices in nine chains.

Their findings contrast with other recent surveys, which found that basic food prices have fallen by as much 14 per cent in the last year.

According to CA the best value was still offered by Kwik Save where the basket cost pounds 28.45. The worst was at Waitrose where the same products cost pounds 30.13. William Morrison, the northern-based chain, lifted prices the most - by 5 per cent. J Sainsbury's prices rose the least - by 7p to pounds 28.70.

Of the big nine, Sainsbury is now second-best value after Kwik Save, overtaking Morrison and Asda, and widening the gap with Tesco, whose prices rose by 3.1 per cent.

CA's figures contrast with those of consultants Verdict Research, which found that the price of a basket of 40 basic groceries fell by 13.8 per cent year on year in the four biggest chains. Richard Hyman, managing director, said he was surprised by the CA figures. 'In my view, food retailing has not been this competitive since the late 1970s.'

Ken Morrison, chairman of William Morrison, said the chain's best value was in own-label and secondary lines, rather than the branded products favoured by the survey.

CA also found that own-label products tasted as good as premium brands and were on average 25 per cent cheaper.

According to the latest retail prices index data, food prices have risen 1.4 per cent over the last year.