The cheapest retailer for groceries in South Africa right now – Woolies vs Checkers vs Pick n Pay and more

 ·9 Jun 2023

Of the eight most popular grocery retailers in South Africa, Makro offers the cheapest basket of essential items for the second consecutive month as of May 2023.

This is according to The Outlier’s monthly grocery basket comparison, which collects the prices of nine staple foods and products near the end of each month from eight major retailers – Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, Makro, Boxer, Food Lover’s Market and Woolworths.

The basket of foods and products is described as made up of essential goods most people are likely to have in their homes and use daily.

The grocery basket comparison includes nine necessities:

  • 700g loaf of Albany Superior sliced white bread or store brand;
  • 2-litre sunflower oil (cheapest option);
  • 2.5kg Iwisa maize meal;
  • 2.5kg Selati white sugar;
  • 2-litre milk (cheapest option);
  • 2kg Tastic rice;
  • 2.5kg Snowflake cake flour;
  • 175g bar of Dettol herbal soap; and
  • 9-pack of two-ply toilet paper (cheapest option);

The Outlier noted that for May 2023, it switched to the cheapest sunflower oil, milk and toilet paper brands. “We did this because it was becoming increasingly difficult to compare the same brands from store to store,” it said.

The brands of the other six items – bread, maize meal, white sugar, rice, cake flour and soap – stay the same. The comparison covers the various retailers in several areas within Gauteng.

According to the data, Makro offered the cheapest basket in May 2023, totalling R382.55. This is R11 cheaper than its basket offering in April, which helped it remain the cheapest retailer for a second consecutive month.

Spar has the most expensive basket at R419.91, which is R37.36 more than Makro. It must be noted that Spar is franchised, meaning prices and items can vary from store to store.

Additionally, the price of Spar’s basket dropped more than at Marko month-on-month, with Spar’s basket price falling by R13.50 compared to April.

Woolworths came in as the second most expensive – sitting just R1 below Spar at R418.91 – whiles Shoperite is the second cheapest in May with a basket price of R385.91.

The table below and the infographic give the price breakdown for each item from the eight grocery retailers and who comes out as the cheapest.

Item Checkers Pick n Pay Woolworths Spar Shoprite Food Lover’s Boxer Makro
Bread R19.99 R19.99 R18.99 R20.99 R18.99 R16.99 R18.49 R18.95
Oil R79.99 R86.99 R89.99 R79.99 R72.99 R79.99 R69.99 R65.95
Maize meal R38.99 R38.99 R38.99 R36.99 R38.99 R34.99 R34.99 R32.95
White Sugar R57.99 R61.49 R53.99 R57.99 R57.99 R56.99 R56.99 R44.95
Milk R34.99 R32.99 R36.99 R29.99 R33.99 R29.99 R32.99 R31.95
Rice R39.99 R39.99 R41.99 R36.99 R39.99 R41.99 R37.99 R40.95
Flour R41.99 R44.99 R41.99 R49.99 R39.99 R42.99 R39.99 R45.95
Soap R17.99 R17.99 R16.99 R16.99 R12.99 R15.95 R17.99 R15.45
Toilet paper R69.99 R69.99 R78.99 R89.99 R69.99 R74.99 R89.99 R85.45
Total  R401.91 R413.41 R418.91 R419.91 R385.91 R394.87 R399.41 R382.55

Food inflation has remained stubbornly high in South Africa due to relentless load shedding and a weaker rand.

In May, the latest Household Affordability Index by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) showed the average cost of the Household Food Basket remained over R5,000 for the second time in history, at R5,071.59.

Year-on-year (YoY), the average cost of the basket increased by R461.70 (10.0%). This marks a drop from the 10.6% increase detected in April.

The May 2023 food basket’s increase was still ahead of the latest inflation numbers released by Stats SA, which said that annual consumer inflation in April reached 6.8%.

That said, it was still far lower than the annual inflation of 13.9% for food and non-alcoholic beverages in April, which eased from a 14-year high of 14.0% in March.

The PMBEJD basket comprises 44 core food items most frequently purchased by lower-income households, which include most households in the country.

In the May basket, only six items showed a price drop between May 2022 and May 2023, with cooking oil seeing the most significant reduction of 16%.

37 other items in the basket saw a price jump, with eight items in the PMBEJD index seeing yearly increases above 20%:

  • Onions: +84%
  • Green pepper: +37%
  • Spinach+ +27%
  • Maize meal: +26%
  • Carrots: +24%
  • Stock cubes: +22%
  • Potatoes: +21%
  • Tomatoes: +20%

The PMBEJD noted that the pressure at the tills would linger for longer due to stubborn inflation, despite moving in line with market expectations at the end of April 2023 to 6.8% from 7.1% in March 2023.

Read: South Africans have had enough

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