Shopping basket comparison

Shopping Basket Comparison: Tesco Express (Cambridge Leisure Park) vs Mill Road Shops: 12th June 2009

12 June 2009

Tesco Express Mill Road
800g wholemeal loaf £1.24 £0.72
½ litre semi-skimmed milk £0.45 £0.45
Small strawberry yoghurt £0.44 £0.32
500g penne £0.77 £0.87
Pepperoni pizza (frozen) £2.69 (330g) £2.39 (340g)
4 beef burgers (frozen) £1.45 £1.39
250g back bacon £2.48 £2.59
Whole chicken (chilled) £3.21 per kg £2.99 per kg
Sliced roast beef £2.26 (130g) £2.00 (200g)
6 large free range eggs £1.64 £1.58
125g French brie £1.03 £1.06
500g sunflower margarine £1.33 95p
400g tin chopped tomatoes £0.41 £0.35
400g tin peach slices £0.80 £0.39 (411g)
Large bag frozen peas £1.54 (1 kilo) £1.09 (907g)
400g ready meal lasagne £1.59 £2.29
3 Granny Smith’s apples £0.99 £0.71
6 kiwis £1.86 £1.00
6 tomatoes £0.92 £0.93
Whole iceberg lettuce £0.92 £0.99
1 Red pepper £0.75 £0.60
2 x 200g aubergines £2.28 £1.12
1 red onion £0.26 £0.13
80 tea bags £1.34 £1.38
1 litre apple juice £0.92 £0.64
2l sparkling water £0.34 £0.48
40 washproof plasters £2.57 £2.52 (for 48)
400g tin catfood £0.62 £0.50
Pack of 4 rolls toilet paper £1.16 £0.54
Washing up liquid £0.67 £0.70
1 kg washing powder £0.99 £2.10
Roll-on deodorant £1.70 £0.79
10 Sachets Cold and Flu Powder £3.53 £1.95
Total £45.15 £38.51

Mill Road shopping basket is 15% cheaper than Tesco Express.

Hilary’s is 31% cheaper for fruit and veg.

Shopping Basket Comparison FAQs

Which shops have you compared?

We compared a basket of goods from the Cambridge Leisure Park Tesco Express with a basket of goods from Hilary’s and the Co-op on Mill Road. Prices were all checked between 1.30pm and 3.30pm on Friday, 12 June 2009.

Why have you compared these shops?

We wanted to compare existing Mill Road shops with an existing Tesco Express. We used the closest Tesco Express to Mill Road. We compared the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables in Tesco Express with those in Hilary’s; all the other items in the Mill Road basket are from the Co-op.

Tesco have always made comparisons between the store they wanted to open on Mill Road and the Mill Road Co-op, so it seemed like a sensible comparison for us to make on prices. We didn’t just want to compare two national supermarket chains, though, so we thought it would be useful to compare Tesco Express prices with those in one of Mill Road’s independent shops, Hilary’s greengrocers.

Why did you choose these products?

We have tried to include a range of different types of goods, including meat; dairy products; frozen food; fresh fruit and vegetables; non-alcoholic drinks; and non-food items like washing up liquid, toilet paper, and deodorant.

Why didn’t you include alcohol?

Since we did the last price comparison, Mill Road has become a Cumulative Impact Zone. This means that even if a Tesco Express had been able to open in Mill Road, it would almost certainly not have been granted an alcohol licence. Since we were only interested in comparing products that could actually be sold on Mill Road, this meant that we didn’t compare alcohol.

Have you included all the items you compared, or have you left out items to make the Mill Road basket cheaper?

Every item that we compared is on this list, we haven’t left anything that we compared off the list.

There were some items that we wanted to compare but couldn’t because the Tesco Express didn’t stock them (e.g. unsmoked, fresh white fish) or because they only sold them in quantities larger than those we were using for the comparison (e.g. basmati rice, yellow onions).

Are you comparing identical products?

We are comparing the cheapest available product in one store with the same type and weight product in the other store. So, for example, we are comparing the cheapest 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in Tesco Express with the cheapest 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in the Co-op.

In some cases, there was a minor difference in the weight or quantity of a product but in all but one case this weights the basket in favour of Tesco. So, we have compared the price of 40 washproof plasters and 130g roast beef slices in Tesco Express with 48 washproof plasters and 200g of roast beef slices in the Co-op – although in both these cases, even though the Tesco quantities are smaller, Tesco is still more expensive.

How does this compare with previous shopping basket comparisons?

Tesco seem to doing even worse on price than in the past. Basket comparisons in 2007 and 2008 both found that Tesco Express prices were higher than Mill Road (13% higher than Mill Road in 2007 and 11% higher in 2008). This time, Tesco Express costs 15% more than Mill Road.

But aren’t Tesco always beating competitors on price?

Not in Express stores, which Tesco admit charge higher prices. They say: “Our prices are a little higher in some of our town centre and neighbourhood stores because costs are higher there.” ( They exclude Express stores from their price comparisons which helps to keep their headline prices low. None of this explains why the biggest supermarket chain in Britain needs to charge 31% more than an independent greengrocers, though!

New shopping basket comparison, February 2008

Tesco say they provide good value groceries in their Express stores. Our new shopping basket comparison test proves them wrong.

Our first shopping basket comparison in October 2007 (see below) compared:

  • the price of a basket of every-day goods from the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express store
  • and the price of the same basket, assembled from handful of Mill Road shops around the proposed Tesco Express site.

We found the Tesco Express store to be 13% more expensive.

Campaign volunteers have now conducted new research to develop the comparison test further. Prices from a larger Tesco store have now been included to highlight the difference between Express Store and larger store prices.

Using a new shopping list which includes more convenience goods such as oven chips, a jar of pasta sauce and a pepperoni pizza, our volunteers visited the Tesco Store in Newmarket Road, as well as revisiting the Tesco Express store in Cherry Hinton. And prices from local Mill Road were collected again to show they still provide better value than a Tesco Express!

The results are:

  • Cherry Hinton Tesco Express : £42.65
  • Newmarket Road Tesco: £33.84
  • Shopping from a collection of local shops (Hilarys, Bangla Bazar, Yasrab, Londis, Balvs, Co-op) : £38.32

For this shopping basket, the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express prices worked out a huge 26% more expensive than its sister store in Newmarket Road. And the Tesco Express is still a whopping 11% more expensive than shopping for the same goods at a handful of local shops on Mill Road.

The Tesco Express prices are from a store which has been established for years, in an area where much of the local competition has been forced to close down due to the arrival of Tesco. Evidence from other similar cases suggests Tesco offer lower prices in the first few weeks in an attempt to attract custom away from the local stores. When their competition is diminished, they can safely put prices up. As Tesco made £2.5 billion in profit last year, they can afford to use this trick. Of course, smaller independent shops can’t fight back in the same way.

So Tesco Express stores work out to be nice tidy profit makers for Tesco, where they can charge more for goods in exchange for the added ‘convenience’ of being located on local high streets. It’s convenient for their shareholders, that much is clear, but how do local communities benefit?

Here was our shopping basket:

  • Two pints semi skimmed milk
  • A loaf of sliced white bread ~ 800g
  • One kilo white onions
  • A kilo of potatoes –
  • One red pepper
  • 1kg Braeburn apples
  • 500g Fusilli pasta
  • 1 jar pasta sauce 500g
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes 400g
  • Cheddar cheese, mild, per kilo price
  • One four pack toilet roll own brand
  • One pack Rich Tea biscuits Mcvities 200g
  • One litre orange juice – concentrate, 100%
  • One bunch carnations
  • J. Creek Semillon chardonnay 75cl
  • One pack Beef mince, 500g
  • One box Cadburys fingers, 150g
  • One 500ml bottle of washing up liquid
  • One 4 pack Fosters, 4 x 500ml
  • 6 pack free range eggs medium
  • 1kg Long Grain rice
  • Flora original (500g)
  • 1 Pepperoni Pizza, approx 350g
  • A chilled macaroni cheese, approx 350g
  • McCain oven chips, s/c, 907g
  • One can Baked Beans approx 415g
  • Frozen peas, approx 800g price per kilo
  • 4 Chocolate muffins
  • J. Creek Semillon chardonnay 75cl

Prices correct on 1st to 5th February 2008.

Where a brand wasn’t specified on the list, we chose the cheapest type available that we could fairly compare. As Tesco Expresses do not stock many of the goods in their own brand and Value brand lines, Express goods are limited in choice and are usually much more expensive.

Shopping basket comparison, October 2007

One of the most widespread pro-Tesco arguments you may hear is that the supermarket giant brings cheaper goods to the high street.

We decided to test this claim by comparing the prices of goods in an average shopping basket at a Tesco Express store with prices in shops already along Mill Road. The goods (see list below) range from a two pint bottle of semi-skimmed milk to a 500ml bottle of washing up liquid, from a loaf of white sliced bread to a four pack of toilet roll. We calculated the total price of the shopping for the nearest Tesco Express (in Cherry Hinton). And for those who visit the local shops in Mill Road, we calculated how much it would cost to put together the same basket of goods by visiting the shops immediately around the proposed Tesco site (Hilarys, Londis, Yasrab, Bangla Bazar, Co-op).

The results speak for themselves:

Cherry Hinton Tesco Express : £33.70
Shopping from a collection of local shops (Hilarys, Bangla Bazar, Yasrab, Londis, Co-op) : £29.91

Prices correct on 4th and 5th October 2007.

Despite Tesco’s claims, these everyday items actually cost MORE in a Tesco Express than they do from the local shops on Mill Road!

The savvy Mill Road shopper can buy this basket of goods from our existing local traders for a whopping £3.79 less than at a Tesco Express store. This is a difference of 13%! Of course, that extra profit is whisked straight out of our local community.

For those who prefer to shop in one store, the existing Mill Road Co-op also appears to be cheaper than a Tesco Express store would be. A Co-op basket costs £32.57 – that’s £1.13 less than the same goods would at a Tesco Express store. And the chocolate muffins you would get at the Co-op are even Fairtrade!!

Here was our shopping basket:

  • Two pints semi skimmed milk
  • A loaf of sliced white bread – Hovis
  • One kilo onions
  • A kilo of broccoli
  • One red pepper
  • 6 Braeburn apples
  • 500g Fusilli pasta
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • Cheddar cheese, medium, 300g
  • One four pack toilet roll Velvet
  • One pack Mcvities rich tea biscuits 300g
  • One litre orange juice
  • One bunch carnations
  • One whole chicken- small/kg
  • One box Cadburys fingers
  • One 500ml bottle of Fairy
  • 4 Chocolate muffins
  • J. Creek Semillon chardonnay 75cl
  • One 4 pack Fosters
  • 6 pack free range eggs medium
  • 1kg Long Grain rice

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