Grocery showdown May 2024: Woolies vs Checkers vs Pick n Pay and more

 ·16 May 2024

For the fifth consecutive month, Makro remains the most affordable grocery retailer in South Africa for a basket of essential items compared to its top seven competitors.

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 as of May 2024.

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 May was R412.14 which is slightly less than in April 2024 (R414.72).

Makro offered the cheapest basket in March 2024, totalling R365.64 R354.64, which was R11.00 more than last month. However, this is R17.15 less than the second cheapest retailer – Food Lover’s Market (R382.79).

It must be noted that Spar is franchised, meaning prices and items can vary from store to store. Spar was the third cheapest retailer (R402.91).

Woolworths had the most expensive basket at R437.91, relatively unchanged from last month (-R3.00) and R55.12 more than Makro.

Interestingly, Pick n Pay is the second most expensive at R437.41—only R0.50 cheaper than Woolworths.

The table below breaks down the prices for each item from the eight grocery retailers and who is the cheapest.

ItemCheckersPick n PayWooliesSparShopriteMakroFood Lover’s
White BreadR19.99R18.99R19.99R19.99R19.99R19.99R19.95
Sunflower oilR79.99R79.99R76.99R69.99R79.99R54.95R69.99
Maize mealR42.99R39.99R38.99R34.99R35.99R34.95R26.99
White SugarR69.99R71.99R64.99R62.99R62.99R56.95R54.99
Toilet paperR79.99R79.99R89.99R79.99R79.99R69.00R74.95
Total R436.91R437.41R437.91R402.91R421.41R365.64R382.79

The Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) has reported that food prices in South Africa have decreased since January 2024.

However, the group warns that it is still too early to celebrate. The PMBEJD’s basket comprises 44 food items that most South African households would purchase in a typical month.

While this basket reflects a lower income, it is what the majority of households would look at. Across the 44 food items tracked by the group, eight decreased in price year-on-year, with cooking oil (-11%) and maize meal (-7%) seeing the largest price drops.

The balance (36 items) increased. However, the PMBEJD said this needs to be understood in the context of pricing coming off a high base.

Most food items are still showing high levels of inflation, with 15 recording double-digit price increases—seven of these are over 20%.

Despite the overall increases, Stats SA has reported that food and NAB inflation is slowing, as most categories have recorded lower annual rates, except for hot beverages and oils and fats.

Inflation for food & NAB slowed to 6.1% in February.

Read: What you need to earn to be considered middle class in South Africa

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