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Trust in supermarkets at lowest level since horsemeat scandal, Which? finds

Trust in the grocery sector has plummeted to its lowest point in more than a decade as the majority of households grapple with supermarket prices, a survey suggests.

Which?’s monthly consumer insight tracker found that trust in the sector dropped in August to the lowest it has been since February 2013, after horse DNA had been discovered in frozen beef burgers and lasagne sold in some Irish and British supermarkets.

The sector received a ‘trust score’ of 30 on a scale from minus 100 to 100 this month, compared with 24 after the horsemeat scandal was exposed – its lowest point – and 68 in May 2020 when supermarkets were widely praised for ramping up online deliveries in response to Covid restrictions.

Food prices, which continue to outstrip overall UK inflation, are now on a par with energy bills as a source of concern to consumers, with Which?’s findings indicating that they worry 85% of people.

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Less than half of shoppers (48%) said they trusted the supermarket sector to act in their best interest, and 18% said they did not trust the sector.

Trust in the food/groceries sector (Which?)
Trust in the food/groceries sector (Which?)

Which? found 78% of consumers had adjusted their habits in response to high food prices, with 54% buying cheaper products, 48% opting for budget range items, and 24% going without some food.

One in seven shoppers (15%) said they were skipping meals to cope with high food costs.

Those who are unemployed (26%) and renters (24%) were most likely to skip meals, according to the survey.

Action taken in response to food prices (Which?)
Action taken in response to food prices (Which?)

Katie Alpin, head of strategic insight at Which?, said: “Month after month of soaring food prices has seen trust in supermarkets plummet to a 10-year low – comparable to the dark days of the horsemeat scandal. The cost of the weekly shop is now on a par with energy bills as the biggest worry for millions of households.

“Supermarkets have the power to ease the huge pressure faced by shoppers, especially families and those on low incomes, by putting low-cost budget range items in hundreds of more expensive convenience stores. Which? research has found that these stores rarely, if ever, stock the cheapest products.”