Price war 2019: Woolworths vs Pick n Pay vs Checkers vs Spar

As South Africans contend with higher fuel and electricity prices from April, the reality of tighter budgets is hitting home in shopping baskets across the country.

The latest data from BankservAfrica shows that, while the nominal increase in take-home pay in the country is beating inflation, in real terms, South Africans are struggling.

BankservAfrica noted that the average real take-home pay increased by only 1.5% year-on-year in February to reach a real average increase to R14,066 a month.

Food prices, meanwhile, have continued to increase at rates far beyond those levels.

In February, Stats SA’s inflation data showed that items like tea, fruit and vegetables saw price increases exceeding 15% – however the latest price war conducted by BusinessTech reveals that at major retailers, some of these prices have climbed even higher.

The table below shows how the average prices in the BusinessTech food basket changed between 2018 and 2019.


Of the four retailers, Spar saw the smallest jump in the price of its basket between 2018 and 2019 – mainly due to significantly scaled-down packaging for its store-branded tea. It also saw a price reduction in the price of its eggs, rice and sugar.

Pick n Pay also saw price reductions (also eggs and rice), and Woolies saw R2 drop off the price of milk – but Checkers saw the most price freezes, with four items not showing any increases, leading to its basket remaining the cheapest.

One of the most notable price jumps between 2018 and 2019 is the price of Coke across all stores – between R4 and R5 more expensive than a year ago.

Coke and most other fizzy drinks were subject to the introduction of the sugar tax in 2018, which saw another marginal increase in 2019. From 1 April 2019, the sugar tax moved from 2.1 cents per gram in excess of 4 grams of sugar per 100ml, to 2.21 cents.

Fruit and veg is also up significantly (around 20%), while maize and margarine have also seen a significant price jump.

Based on the in-store prices of products as at 2 April 2019, this is how the retailers compared.

Update: the tables have been updated to reflect the online price of Woolworths milk

The graph below outlines how this basket has changed over time, including the results from the 2015 price war.



The BusinessTech basket comprises 12 common food items that would be found in a middle class family shopping basket. It does not include items where prices are measured on a per kg basis (like meat, or cheese), to draw as fair a comparison as possible. Where possible store-branded products are used.

Pick n Pay is an outlier in that it has two different store brands. For the comparison, the group’s PnP Brand items were used, not the group’s No Name Brand items, as the former is more directly tied to the Pick n Pay brand.

Where these products aren’t available, the cheapest alternative is priced. Prices were sourced in-store from stores around Centurion and cross-checked online, where applicable.

Promotional prices, where marked, were not taken into account. Woolworths’ self-raising flour prices were determined on a per kg basis. In-store prices are subject to change depending on individual regions and promotions.

Read: South Africa’s petrol and electricity prices vs the world

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Price war 2019: Woolworths vs Pick n Pay vs Checkers vs Spar