Marmite jars

Tesco has hiked the price of Marmite seven months after its public refusal to bow to brand owner Unilever’s demands for Brexit-driven increases sparked #Marmitegate.

Tesco this week added 5p to a 250g jar of Marmite and 200g squeezy bottle, now both £2.40. It increased the price of a 125g Marmite jar last month, from £1.65 to £1.70 [Brand View 52 w/e 11 May 2017], exclusive research by The Grocer has revealed.

Waitrose also added 5p to a 250g jar and 200g squeezy bottle of Marmite this week - now £2.40 - and 10p to a 400g squeezy bottle - now £4.75. Asda and Morrisons increased their prices last year, with the best selling 250g jar now priced at £2.34 and £2.64 respectively, although it is on offer for £2 in Asda and £2.35 in Morrisons. (Sainsbury’s price has been unchanged at £2.50 since 2014.)

Tesco has until now strongly resisted all price increases from Unilever - pulling the savoury spread along with other Unilever brands from its website last October after the fmcg giant demanded a 10% increase in all its prices following the drop in sterling resulting from the Brexit vote.

But while the price increases do not suggest a 10% increase, Tesco’s move on Marmite this week has sparked speculation it is finally bowing to post-Brexit price pressure from Unilever, despite insisting during last year’s trade dispute that it would “always put our customers first”.

Tesco also increased prices for other Unilever brands in recent weeks.

A 650g tub of Wall’s Viennetta Original is now £1.45 in Tesco, up from £1.30, while a 430ml jar of Hellmann’s Tomato Ketchup is now 75p more expensive at £1.75, and a 500g tub of Flora Orginal spread is £1.70, up from £1.20. A number of Knorr soups are up from 75p to 83p, while Magnum 4-packs are up 20p to £3.

Tesco also cut back on promotions for Unilever grocery brands, with 62 currently running compared with 86 last year. Overall, shelf prices are up by 2% year on year across a comparable list of 252 Unilever SKUs in Tesco [Brandview 52 w/e 11 May 2017].

A spokeswoman said Tesco was “continually working to mitigate cost increases and keep prices as low as possible for our customers”. Unilever UK declined to comment but its vice president for customer development, Jill Ross, said in January that long-term price deflation, rising commodity costs and the devaluation of sterling had created “industry-wide pressures that must be constructively addressed”.