Britain's biggest supermarket chains have introduced baked bean rationing because of a 3p-a-can price war. Shoppers at Tesco, Asda and Kwik Save were yesterday limited to four tins each to prevent other retailers from stocking up and re-selling them.
The bean feast began last month when the big chains cut the price of their own brand name baked beans to 5p in the face of tough competition from the discount stores Aldi and Netto. Since then, the price has been cut twice more and rationing - first at five tins, then at four - has been introduced.
Yesterday, Tesco reduced the price of its Value brand to just 3p, making a loss on every can in an attempt to carve out a larger part of the pounds 250m a year market.
Nicole Lander, a spokeswoman for the company, said: "In response to competition from other supermarkets we have now made the decision to reduce our line to 3p.
"Our customers are finding the offer very, very attractive. It's so popular that we have had to reduce the number of cans they can purchase to four."
Despite increases in sales of supermarket brands, Heinz, which sells 1.5 million cans of beans a day - 52.4 per cent of the market - was holding its price steady at 33p.
According to The Grocer, the retail trade magazine, its rivals' prices are the lowest for 101 years.
Historians at Heinz, which introduced tinned baked beans in 1901, say beans were by no means the cheap product they are today. They were introduced to the market at nine old pence - the equivalent after inflation of pounds 1.50 at today's prices.
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