Grocery basket showdown: Woolies vs Checkers vs Pick n Pay and more

 ·17 Feb 2024

Makro remains the most affordable among the top seven grocery retailers in South Africa for a basket of selected essential items as of 15 February 2024.

This is according to BusinessTech’s grocery basket comparison, which collected the online prices of nine staple foods and products in a typical middle-income grocery basket.

The comparison included seven of South Africa’s major retailers – Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, Woolworths, Food Lover’s Market, and Makro.

The grocery basket comparison includes the following:

  • 700g loaf of Albany Superior sliced white bread
  • 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
  • 9-pack of two-ply toilet paper (cheapest option)

In very rare cases, some brands are not available at all retailers – for example, Woolworths does not stock Albany Superior sliced white bread, but it does have its own like-for-like product, which is used in the comparison.

Because brands vary across all stores for sunflower oil, milk, and toilet paper, the cheapest version available is used from each store. If any other substitutions are required, these are noted and explained in the table below.

It must be stressed that it is possible to find the same products in the basket at a lower price or use cheaper non-branded alternatives. Pricing can change from region to region or, in the case of Spar, across different franchises.

The basket is, therefore, not a representation of the absolute cheapest version of every item. The specific brands are chosen for consistency across retailers and their recognisability among middle-class shoppers.

The pricing in the analysis comes from retailers in Gauteng and is collected in the middle of the month. The normal price of items was used, and limited-time specials were not considered.

The results

According to the data collected, the average cost for our basket of nine staple items in February was R413.50, which is slightly more expensive than in January 2024 (R412).

Makro offered the cheapest basket in February 2024, totalling R380.64, which was R4.72 less than last month. However, this is R18.65 less than the second cheapest retailer – Food Lover’s (R399.29).

Woolworths had the most expensive basket at R441.91, R2 up from last month and R61.27 more than Makro.

Spar was the third cheapest retailer (R397.91). It must be noted that Spar is franchised, meaning prices and items can vary from store to store.

The table below gives the breakdown of prices for each item from the eight grocery retailers and who comes out as the cheapest.

ItemCheckersPick n PayWoolworthsSparShopriteMakroFood Lover’s
White BreadR19.99R19.99R19.99R17.99R19.99R19.99R19.45
Sunflower oilR79.99R74.99R79.99R69.99R79.99R62.95R74.99
Maize mealR38.99R41.49R38.99R34.99R35.99R29.95R34.99
White SugarR64.99R64.99R61.99R59.99R62.99R54.95R62.99
Toilet paperR79.99R74.99R96.99R79.99R79.99R71.00R74.95
Total R428.91R420.41R441.91R397.91R419.91R380.64R399.29

The latest data from the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) shows that food prices in South Africa continue to rise, with some vegetables, fruits, and eggs seeing double-digit increases.

Across the 44 food items tracked by the group, only four came down in price, year-on-year, with Onions (-27%) and Cooking oil (-15%) seeing the largest price drops. The balance (40 items) went up.

According to the PMBEJD, its household food basket for January 2024 increased to R5,324.86 – an increase of R407.44 (8.3%) compared to January 2023. Month-on-month, the basket was up by 1.7% – or R86.66.

While measuring data a month later than Stats SA’s basket, the 8.3% increase is higher than the latest recorded CPI for food, which came in at 5.1% in December 2023 from 5.5% in November and 5.9% in October.

24 food items saw double-digit growth year-on-year, reflecting significant increases – and nine were over 20%.

Read: Good news for braai lovers this Christmas – with a warning for 2024

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