A poll of more than 2,000 shoppers by YouGov found that retailers have a long way to go to convince them they are doing enough to keep food prices down or persuade them to change existing shopping habits.
Last week's Consumer Price Index revealed that inflation had hit a three-year high and, with public spending cuts starting to eat into household budgets, the retailers are keener than ever to promote initiatives such as Tesco's Big Price Drop, Sainsbury's Brand Match, Asda's 10% Price Guarantee and Morrisons' Price Crunch.
However, the poll shows only 17% of shoppers think supermarkets are doing enough to keep prices down and 54% believe they could do more to help.
Even more worrying for retailers is a clear lack of trust among the public about the claims supermarkets make about pricing initiatives. Half of the shoppers polled either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "I believe supermarkets' claims about cutting prices".
Just 18% said they agreed with the statement, with only 2% agreeing strongly.There was also little evidence that the price war, which has intensified since Tesco launched its Big Price Drop last month, is actually impacting on where shoppers go for groceries.
Since Tesco made its move, Sainsbury's rolled out Brand Match nationwide, Asda introduced 3,000 rollbacks and Morrisons launched its Morrisons Millions. However, only 9% of shoppers polled admitted to having swapped supermarket as a result.
"In order to see significant share change, one player needs to strike decisively and make consumers a clearly differentiated price/value offer," said YouGov retail consulting director Rob Cushen. "A tipping point has yet to be reached that will break existing shopping habits."
The findings back many industry experts' opinion that the price war is less about stealing market share and more of a defensive move aimed at protecting share against, not only each other, but the resurgent hard discounters.While awareness of the price war is high at 76%, the picture was more mixed for individual campaigns.
At 67%, the Big Price Drop was most recognised, closely followed by Asda's Price Guarantee at 64% and 59% for Morrisons' Big Price Crunch. But only 44% were familiar with Sainsbury's Brand Match, an initiative group commercial director Mike Coupe has said means price is no longer a competitive advantage.
Who's winning the price war? Shopper take-up of pricing initiatives:
Tesco - Big Price Drop - 33%
Morrisons - Price Crunch - 18%
Asda - Price Guarantee - 18%
Sainsbury's - Brand Match - 14%
Grocer Price Index: A month of Big Price Drop, yet Tesco prices remain flat (29 October 2011)
Editor's Comment: The Big Price Drop sums up UK grocery (29 October 2011)