Supermarkets, including smaller convenience stores, must do more to ensure essential value range items are widely available as staple food prices rise, consumer group Which? has urged.
Which? says shoppers have no choice but to buy standard own-brand items which could cost three times more due to essential value items not being stocked.
Its Affordable Food For All campaign found that staple foods including rice, spaghetti, baked beans and tea bags are among the items that could cost more than three times as much if budget range is not available to consumers.
In a more recent example, Which? analysed the price of some everyday food staples and found that shoppers could be faced with having to pay 246% more at Asda’s budget range.
It noted that the Just Essentials by Asda Long Grain Rice 1kg at 52p was not available to buy in most convenience stores.
The standard own-brand, Asda Easy Cook Long Grain White Rice 1kg was coming in at £1.80, while the more expensive branded alternative, Ben’s Original Long Grain Rice 1kg, was £4.85 - an increase of 833%.
Similarly, Tesco’s own budget range Grower’s Harvest Long Grain Rice 1Kg (52p) was not available, while the standard own-brand item, Tesco Easy Cook Long Grain Rice 1Kg, was £1.25.
Which? said those who rely on supermarket convenience stores are less likely able to find budget range and are often limited to branded items that could cost more.
The findings also revealed that supermarkets charge higher prices for the same products at convenience stores, compared with larger stores.
While some may argue that the difference in quality and ingredients could be the contributing factor to buying branded products, those shopping in convenience stores may be limited to only branded products.
Which? head of food policy Sue Davies said: “As millions struggle with increased food prices and other high household bills, it's staggering that shoppers face paying over three times more for items if they can’t get to a larger supermarket.
“Which? is calling on all major supermarkets to ensure expensive convenience stores are stocked with a range of essential budget ranges so that hard-pressed customers can afford important staple foods to feed themselves and their loved ones healthily.”
The Which? inflation tracker shows that the overall annual rate of grocery inflation slowed to 12.5% in August – the lowest figure recorded since September 2022. However it said food prices are still rising at an alarming rate.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures for August show food has overtaken household bills as the biggest contributor to overall inflation.
To address this ongoing issue, some supermarkets have taken steps to ensure customers get their hands on staple essentials at budget range.
Morrisons has started to stock 10 budget range items in 500 of its Daily stores and has said 30 more will follow.
Meanwhile Tesco has vowed to swap branded goods with cheaper branded or own brand alternatives in Express stores but should go further by stocking its cheapest budget ranges.
Whereas Sainsbury’s and Asda are yet to announce that they are making any significant changes in their convenience stores to ensure budget range is made available to its customers.
In a bid for change, Which? has launched a petition calling on the supermarkets to take action in order to make pricing and offers more transparent, which has been signed by almost 110,000 supporters.
In response, Sainsbury’s said: “We are acutely aware of the pressures facing millions of households right now and our number one priority continues to be doing all we can to keep prices low for our customers.
Meanwhile, Morrisons said that it was working hard to keep prices down and competitive for customers while maintaining high standards and availability in all stores during an unprecedented period of inflation.