Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, has launched a scathing attack on his larger rivals for “duping” customers through price-cutting campaigns.

“Some prices go down but others go up by more at the same time. Customers are being duped,” he told The Times.

“For the past ten years we have had huge price cuts every January and yet every year the margins end up higher. You'd have to ask them, but can the major supermarkets afford to reduce their margins by 1 or 2 per cent? I don't think someone like Sainsbury's could.”

He added: “So it becomes all about how do you work on price to give the impression that you are more competitive than you are. Don't always believe the hype that says manager's special.”

Because the bigger supermarkets compete on price they have changed customer perception of value, Price added.

“The British consumer has been duped into thinking value means cheap, but it's not true,” he said. “I wouldn't want my children to eat economy burgers made with mechanically recovered meat.”

“Just because we have nice products, nice staff and nice stores doesn't mean we are expensive. Our customers are paying a fair price - an honest price for a quality product.”