Supermarkets have slashed the prices of top selling lines since the price war began – but overall they increased more prices than they cut, reveals analysis by The Grocer.

Excluding promotions, there have been 4,992 price hikes and 4,464 price cuts at the top five supermarkets since 23 February, data collated from shows. Since that date, just before the price war began with the launch of Tesco’s ‘prices down and staying down’ campaign, Tesco has increased the price of 1,350 items and cut the price of 1,012. Even including deals, it has increased more prices than it has cut, albeit by a narrower margin.

It’s a similar story at Asda. The retailer – which has pledged to invest £1bn in price over the next five years – has put up more prices than it has cut both before and after promotions.

Waitrose has also increased many more prices than it has cut since the price war started.

However, Morrisons – which last week announced another 1,200 price cuts under its new ‘I’m cheaper’ campaign – has cut more than double the number of products than it increased before and after promotions.

Sainsbury’s, whose CEO Justin King has downplayed the price war saying “price skirmishes” were an ever-present feature of the market, has also cut more prices than it has increased both before and after promotions.

Where there is more evidence of a price war is on leading ‘known-value items’. Prices have fallen when looking at a basket of 60 of the biggest selling products by value across alcohol, health, fresh, ambient, frozen, household and toiletries.

Across the top five supermarkets, the average cost of the basket has fallen 2.7% since February. All the supermarkets have cut the price of loose broccoli and carrots, while milk and bread prices have fallen consistently. Prices of some bigger-ticket items, such as Gillette razor blades and Bell’s and Famous Grouse whisky, have also come down.

 Sample Size Price Cuts Price IncreasesTop 60 Basket 
Tesco  24,241 1,012 1,350 -2.40%
Asda 18,362 1,080 1,599 -7.70%
Sainsbury’s 15,849 965 704 2.50%
Morrisons  7499 849 325 -3.20%
Waitrose  13,116 558 1,014 -4.60%
Total/ Average  79,067 4,464 4,992 -2.70%

The basket cost has dropped most sharply at Asda, falling 7.7% since January, helped by a larger number of ‘rollback’ save promotions at the end of the period. The cost has also fallen at Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose, but has risen at Sainsbury’s, mainly because of products coming off promotion.

The price cuts on top-selling items – if sustained – will cost retailers far more than changes on some others. The Grocer estimated in March that Tesco’s milk price cuts would account for more than half its pledged £200m annual price investment.

Tesco claimed it had cut prices overall: “Our own data covers 40,000 products and clearly shows that our prices overall have come down over this period. On top of that, our price cuts are focused on the products that customers buy most often, like bread, milk and eggs, and are down by an average of 24%.”

This month, The Grocer Price Index showed that average inflation had fallen to a new low of -0.01% - having hovered at about 1% since February. Inflation has fallen as the price war has intensified and commodity costs have fallen.

Inflation has eased most significantly in fruit & veg and meat, fish and poultry – which have so far been the main battleground in the price war.

Fruit & veg inflation was running at more than 6% last year after a bad winter, but has now slipped to -1.86% and meat, fish and poultry inflation has tumbled from more than 7% in the wake of the horsemeat scandal to 2.2%.

High levels of investment in ‘spring clean’ promotions and bank holiday booze deals also depressed prices this month.


The data on the number of price increases and decreases is based on a survey of price changes excluding promotions between 23 February and 7 May using It was collected by web-scraping of the supermarket websites. The survey covers all the food and drink products sold by the grocers online, but no non-food products.

The top-60 basket was tracked over the same period. It was put together from a list of the top-selling KVIs by value equally balanced across seven grocery categories: alcohol, fresh, ambient, health, frozen, household and toiletries.


This story previously stated that Morrisons had increased 430 prices and cut 399 prices, excluding promotions. This data was collected from store visits, but because of concerns about the accuracy of the numbers, web-scraping of was used to produce the latest numbers. Morrisons stocks a smaller range online than other supermarkets so some of the price cuts advertised in the “I’m Cheaper” campaign will not be captured in the data.