Shopping Organic: A Price Comparison

To mark Organic Fortnight, I am substituting some of my usual shopping items with organic versions and comparing the price and quality. As we are inundated with home grown veg at the moment, I thought there was little point in filling my basket with organic vegetables. Instead, I opted for other stock food items on my shopping list. As it’s well-known for its support of organic products, I headed for my branch of Waitrose. I have occasionally bought organic items before but, while I’ve grown fussier about my food, I’ve never deliberately sought them out because I’ve always assumed they were more expensive. What surprised me during my shopping trip was the lack of choice in certain categories and the abundance of it in others.

Looking for margarine, I headed for the dairy section. But even at Waitrose, there were only two organic options and both were (normally) more expensive than the non-organic versions. Yeo Valley organic spread was £2.75 for 500g (£5.50 per kg) and although there was a buy two for £2 offer, I knew we wouldn’t get through it quickly enough to make it a worthwhile purchase. Lurpak organic spread was a pricey £1.49 for 150g compared to Flora (£1.49 for 500g or £2.98 per kg). I passed but picked up some Waitrose organic salted butter instead for £1.19 (£4.76 per kg). Still more expensive than the Essentials 98p pack (£3.92 per kg), it was cheaper than Rachel’s Organic (£1.41 or £5.64 per kg).

DJ told me that milk is one of the least price sensitive organic products. The almost empty shelf of Duchy’s Original milk suggested he was right. Six pints of Duchy Original cost £2.38 (69.8p a litre) – only a few pence more than the £2.25 non-organic equivalent (66p a litre). There was a wider range of yoghurts available too compared to butter and margarine, although still mostly made either by Waitrose, Yeo Valley or Rachel’s Organic. I opted for a 4 pack of Yeo Valley bio yoghurts on offer at 82p – normally £1.65.

The cereal aisle stood out. There I found a huge range of organic products. As well as the supermarket’s own brands, there were Lizi’s Organics, Rude Health, Pertwood Organics and Sharpham Park. However, prices varied wildly. Nature’s Path maple syrup and hazelnut cereal was £3.15 for 325g (96.9p per 100g) compared to Waitrose’s non-organic maple & nut crunch at £1.99 for 500g (39.8p per 100g). I discovered that if you wanted to eat organic affordably, it was best to eat either muesli or porridge. White’s organic jumbo oats were £1 for 750g in a special offer (normally £1.39) or 13.3p per 100g (normally 18.5p per 100g). I’d tried White’s before so this time I plumped for Flahavan’s organic porridge (£1.99 a 1kg pack or 19.9p per 100g). This was actually cheaper than Waitrose’s non-organic porridge oats at £1.99 for 750g (26.5p per 100g).

The tea and coffee aisle also brimmed with options from Waitrose, Duchy, Tock Tock, Clipper, Good Earth, Dragonfly and Twinings and including organic red bush tea and various herb teas. I picked Good Earth’s organic fair-trade tea – £2.65 for 250g (£1.06 per 100g). By chance, I found some Village Bakery organic chocolate brownies in the bargain bin to go with it – £2.59 for 4 slices, reduced to £1.39. These were refugees from the gluten-free section and I was surprised to find no organic produce on the main cake shelf.

Meat is an area where many groups claim the organic system leads to improved animal welfare and health benefits, but what about the price? I was astonished to find Duchy’s Original organic mince marked down, presumably as an Organic Fortnight incentive, to £2.24 for 500g. At £4.48 per kg, this was cheaper than Waitrose Essential mince, (selling at £6.86 per kg) although slightly pricier than Waitrose Aberdeen Angus mince at £4.38 per kg. However, the usual price for Duchy’s mince is actually £9.98 per kg. I also bought organic prawns (£3.99 for 125g or £31.92 per kg compared to non-organic price of £26.60 per kg) and Waitrose organic spaghetti for 99p a pack (£1.98 per kg). The Waitrose Essential spaghetti was 68p (£1.36 per kg) while Seeds of Change’s organic sold for £1.99 for 500g (£3.98 per kg).

All in all, very few of my purchases were cheaper than their non-organic competitors – apart from the porridge and mince on special offer. But there is more to this experiment than price comparisons. How does the quality stack up and what about the feel-good factor of knowing you are supporting ethical farming techniques? I’ll let you know next week how I get on with testing my purchases.

Is it important to support organic farmers and producers? What would make you buy more of their products? Leave a message and let me know.

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10 Responses to Shopping Organic: A Price Comparison

  1. clarissa says:

    I think a better question to ask is what does "organic" mean and is the price difference justified. Is it more expensive to farm organic? If so why? And is it actually sustainable at this great cost? I do feel that the prices charged are more the fashion than anything to do with the ethos of animal welfare or or over all quality. Often the organic link is very tenuous indeed.

  2. Piper says:

    Good point. I\’d like to find out more about why the prices vary so much depending on the produce. Is this because it\’s more expensive to produce certain things organically than others? Here is the Soil Association definition of organic certification http://www.soilassociation.org/Whyorganic/Whatisorganic/tabid/206/Default.aspx

  3. Piper says:

    I\’m speaking to the Soil Association next week, so if you\’ve got any other questions you\’d like me to ask, shoot now!

  4. Christine says:

    I think that you may well find that organic produce is more labour intensive to produce due to the lack of chemicals for such things as killing weeds – there\’s more manual labour there for a start. It also takes a long time to get a farm or small holding up to Soil Association standards.

  5. Christine says:

    It\’s also very easy to mix up organic and animal welfare. The two should go together but it\’s a moot question as to whether it actually happens. I suspect that in this area there are a lot of questions to be asked. You can have happy chickens for instance whilst not raising them organically. Been there, seen it.

  6. Christine says:

    You know it\’s not a feel good factor in supporting ethical farming techniques for many of those who support organic food. It\’s a belief that this is the way that we should live as it\’s respecting all life on the planet. And the fact that the option seems to be priced out of the reach of some of us is not good.

  7. Bill says:

    They have no hope or means of controlling the rip-off merchants, or any of those desperate enough ter see a lucrative means of financial survival. Farmers, also wheelers & dealers, are falling like flies in the current economic climate. Some will cling to any means of survival, however criminal.

  8. Bill says:

    The small measure of genuine "organic" is subject to an entire shedload of extremely expensive, & equaly futile Red-Tape. It becomes extremely hard labour fers such a small net pittance.

  9. Kerri says:

    Personally I don\’t feel the need to seek out Organic products, I would rather spend the additional money on Free Range/Outdoor bred meat/eggs, sustainable fish and locally produced produce.

  10. Piper says:

    Thanks to everybody for your comments. You raise some interesting points & it will be interesting to see what the Soil Association has to say later this week. Cheers, Piper

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