Grocery prices in South Africa vs the UK and the USA

 ·3 Mar 2016

Consumer website, Retail Price Watch has compared the prices of a number of grocery items in the USA, UK and South Africa following reports that the latter is one of the most affordable countries in the world.

GoBankingRates rated South Africa as the cheapest country in the world to live and retire. The site ranked 112 nations according to four key affordability metrics provided by online pricing database Numbeo.

The findings sparked controversy among many who claim that the cost of living in South Africa is not affordable at all.

Retail Price Watch compared the prices of 10 common household grocery items found in three countries: South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It found that the “theoretical basket” of goods – which contained branded goods including Dettol antiseptic liquid, Coca Cola and Kit Kats – was between 48% and 85% more expensive abroad.

Brand Description Average price per 100g/unit RSA 2015 Average price per 100g/unit RSA 2016 Average price per 100g/unit UK 2016 Average price per 100g/unit USA 2016
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Box 5.86 5.98 7.56 9.41
Adidas Ice Dive Spray Deo 14.10 16.53 29.17 37.25
Dettol Antiseptic Liquid 4.80 6.05 9.96 27.92
Johnson’s Baby Powder 9.15 9.51 8.54 12.50
Coca Cola Soft Drink 0.77 0.46 2.81 1.76
Nesquik Chocolate Milk Powder 7.29 7.84 12.77 13.00
Knorr Chicken Liquid Stock 3.76 4.37 7.47 12.97
Lipton Black Teabags 0.49 0.59 0.54 0.99
Kit Kat Chocolate Wafer Bar 14.46 14.75 18.84 26.97
Pringles Sour Cream and Onion 19.76 18.21 27.87 14.32
Total 80.26 84.60 125.52 157.12

Data was adjusted for slight differences in pack size in the three countries and using R21.35 to the GBP and R15.35 to the dollar on the day the survey was taken. This report used average everyday prices in supermarkets and did not take account of specials, which in the UK can be considerable

“The theoretical basket containing 100g or a single unit of each item cost R84.60 in South Africa in February 2016, R125.52 in the UK, and R157.12 at Walmart USA supporting the GoBankingRates finding,” said Viccy Baker of Retail Price Watch.

According to Baker, there is some good news in the statistics – at current rates, it would still take South Africa seven years to reach the UK’s prices – and almost 12 years to reach the USA’s prices.

“The bad news is the fact that in February 2015 this basket cost R80.26 in South Africa, showing a 5.4% year-on-year inflation rate at the 2016 figure,” she said.

Expressed as a percentage of average monthly income* (from reported and estimated averages, in USD), however, things look a little different:

  • The UK basket is equal to $8.17, which is 0.3% of $3,072
  • The USA basket is equal to $10.24, which is 0.2% of $4,471
  • The SA basket is equal $5.51, which is 0.6% of $920

Here the South African basket accounts for two to three times as much of monthly income than the UK or USA – so the rand can buy you more, locally, but we earn a lot less.

Viccy Baker is founder of Red Gekko’s Retail Price Watch, a consumer website dedicated to providing the latest up-to-date information on consumer good prices across South Africa. You can view and compare products on various prices here.

UK: GBP22,600 p.a. | USA: $53,657 p.a. | RSA: R178,000 p.a.

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