Here are the rather shocking results of the produce price survey exercise that we did last week. Readers and MM submitted 34 completed surveys, including all 12 produce items in the original post. I did NOT reconfirm prices and I am assuming that the lists were done with ample attention to accuracy and that the readers who submitted them did so in good faith, and were NOT INTENTIONALLY trying to mislead the public. I do not discount the possibility of slight errors, but on the whole, the results seem quite defensible, particularly since me and my staff did about 10 surveys ourselves. Through sources, I know that at least three or four large grocery chains are following these price comparison posts with more than just a mild interest, as is a government agency. If I can be a bit pissy, I want to know WHY there isn’t a consumer protection agency that does these kinds of survey scientifically and regularly and posts their findings in publicly accessible areas like the internet, etc. Even cursory mention of market prices on morning television shows limit their sampling to just a few markets a day and they don’t, to my knowledge, do groceries either. At any rate, in case you thought it didn’t matter where you shopped, let us see what the data indicates:
1. WET MARKETS ARE MUCH CHEAPER, GROCERIES CAN MARK UP BY OVER 100%!
If you bought roughly the same basket of 12 produce items last week, you could have spent as little as PHP419.00 and as much as 1,009.00, and oddly, both in Cebu City. That means you could have spent 141% MORE at one place than the other. Or PHP 590.00 more! And that is just ONCE to the market/grocery, and only buying 12 produce items! Egads!
Markets are definitely cheaper than groceries. Duh. That doesn’t surprise in and of itself, but the magnitude in price differentials does surprise and upset any typical thrifty consumer. Market vendors have lower rent, no airconditioning and other utility bills, no advertising, probably less taxes, etc. and this would or should explain some of the differences. One can also assume, they are in a highly competitive environment, with several vendors selling the same produce so prices remain within a tight range and closer to that textbook definition of “equilibrium”.
Groceries, on the other hand, have what appear to me to be, outrageous price differentials. And it is interesting that large chains like SM, Metro, Rustan’s etc. have such variable prices, when you would imagine they would have huge buying clout. Even groceries within a few minutes walk from each other have prices that are substantially different. I realize there are lots of factors that build into the pricing, but from a consumer’s perspective, there is only one key question… Are you really willing to pay such a huge difference in prices simply because of ignorance, habit or perceived/actual convenience??? Just read the list below, and you will get a GOOD picture of who has obviously higher prices in this small sample of groceries/ supermarkets.
LIST OF MARKETS AND GROCERIES RANKED BY TOTAL PRICE OF MM’s 12-ITEM PRODUCE BASKET:
1. Carbon Market, Cebu – PHP419.00
2. Carmen Market, Cagayan de Oro – PHP499.00
3. Malanday Market, Valenzuela – PHP552.00
4. Pasig Mega Market, Pasig – PHP558.00
5. Sangandaan Market, Caloocan – PHP600.00
6. San Jose New Market, Puerto Princesa – PHP605.00
7. Divisoria Market, Manila – PHP605.00
8. Tabu-an Market, Piapi Dumaguete – PHP625.00
9. Suki Market, Mayon QC – PHP660.00
10. SM Megamall, Mandaluyong – PHP667.00
11. South Supermarket, Alabang – PHP682.00
12. SM Grocery, Ayala Center, Makati – PHP693.00
13. Hi-Top Supermarket, Quezon City – PHP723.00
14. SM Grocery, Dasmarinas, Cavite – PHP726.00
15. Landmark, Ayala Center, Makati – PHP728.00
16. SM Grocery, Sta. Rosa, Laguna – PHP730.00
17. Unimart, Ortigas Center, San Juan – PHP736.35
18. Shopwise, E Rodriguez, Libis QC – PHP740.00
19. SM Mall of Asia, Pasay – PHP763.00
20. Cash & Carry, Makati – PHP782.15
21. Rustan’s Technopark, Sta. Rosa, Laguna – PHP789.00
22. SM Grocery, SM City, Cebu – PHP789.00
23. Metro Grocery, Market!Market!, Taguig – PHP790.00
24. Makati Supermarket, Alabang Muntinlupa – PHP812.60
25. Metro Grocery, Ayala Center, Cebu – PHP837.00
26. S & R, Aseana , Baclaran – PHP845.40
27. S & R, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig – PHP851.40
28. Rustan’s, Rockwell, Makati – PHP868.55
29. Rustan’s Greenbelt I, Makati – PHP872.00
30. Rustan’s Ayala Center, Makati – PHP908.00
31. Rustan’s Ayala Center, Cebu – PHP912.00
32. Rustan’s Forbes Park, Makati – PHP948.55
33. Robinson’s Place Supermarket, Bacolod – PHP983.00
34. Robinson’s Banilad Town Center, Cebu – PHP1,009.00
2. PRICE VARIATIONS BY PRODUCE ITEM AT GROCERIES ARE SHOCKINGLY LARGE!
Price variations (ONLY AMONG GROCERIES, I LEFT OUT WET MARKETS IN THE DATA BELOW) on specific produce items can be as much as 392%, with kalamansi ranging from PHP16.25-80.00 per kilo, or a difference of PHP63.75 per kilo! On a nominal basis, ginger prices were PHP102 pesos more at one grocery than its lowest priced competitor!
1. Onions PHP56-115 (105%)
2. Tomatoes PHP30-79.95 (167%)
3. Garlic PHP134-193 (44%)
4. Potato PHP48-92 (92%)
5. Banana PHP30-56 (87%)
6. Carrots PHP60-150 (150%)
7. Kalamansi PHP16.25-80 (392%) (Though I suspect the lowest price might have been for a half kilo but I can’t be sure)
8. Baguio Beans PHP29.40-62.00 (111%)
9. Cabbage PHP30-72.50 (142%)
10. Kalabasa (Squash) PHP10-30 (200%)
11. Pechay PHP28.30-60 (112%)
12. Luya (Ginger) PHP75-177 (136%)
3. ARE YOU THROWING AWAY MILLIONS IN CARELESS SHOPPING?
If reader “A” voluntarily continued to shop at one of the most expensive groceries in the survey above, and spent a hypothetical PHP500 more EVERY WEEK for the next 30 years on their fruits and vegetables, how much do you think you could have saved over 30 years at 6% compound interest?
Yes, you would have SAVED half a million pesos if you managed to save PHP500 a week on the groceries. And that doesn’t mean abstaining, it means shopping smarter. Ok, wiseass, you say, it’s not worth driving the extra mile to the cheaper source, or your time is more valuable than the savings, or your life is stressed enough as it is, so why shouldn’t you indulge at a premium grocery? Let me put it this way. If you were buying a new iphone tomorrow and there were two stores in Makati, Alabang, Manila, Davao etc. and one store was asking PHP68,000 but offered you a private viewing room with Starbucks coffee, while a five minute walk away another store with the exact same phone but without the plush surroundings was asking PHP42,000, would you still buy the more expensive one???
4. MARKETMAN’S TIPS FOR SAVING ON YOUR FOOD BILLS
a. Increase your knowledge of prices. INFORMATION is POWER. Pay attention when and where you shop. Form a group of friends and relatives and keep tabs on prices and post them on your facebook page, whatever. A little effort and research will go a long way. And it isn’t just the HIGH PRICED ITEMS WHERE IT MATTERS.
b. Shop at a wet market at least twice a month for the basics. I like the FTI market in Taguig, which is convenient to where we live. I also like the Carbon market in Cebu. Find a wet market reasonably close and accessible to you with good prices. Build a rapport with your favored sukis or vendors. Make sure to remember them at Christmas and they will be wickedly good to you all year round. In our household, almost 85% of produce is sourced from wet markets, with groceries only providing last minute items, high end fruits and herbs, or ingredients for unplanned dishes.
c. Think your household is too small to buy in bulk? Then form “buying groups” with your neighbors or relatives. That way, for say the top 12 basics in the survey above, one family can hit the market and buy for say 4 different households, and the bonus is that you only have to go to the market ONCE a month if you take turns!
d. Eat what’s in season. If you market often enough, you will notice when particular items are in season. Feast on pako (ferns) during the rainy season, santol fruit during summer, kalamansi during the rainy season, etc. And preserve some key ingredients by making preserves, pickles, sauces, etc.
e. Track your expenditures, so you know where your money is going. Yes, we have a fairly detailed budget for the home and track it monthly.
5. VOTE WITH YOUR WALLETS!
Most consumers do NOT believe they can make a difference. It’s bad enough we are perhaps one of the nations/nationalities that complain the least when something goes wrong, so forgiving and willing to accept bad service or pricing, but are you really so willing to waste that hard-earned income? So while you might not think that one family moving from one grocery or market to another can make a difference, think again. There are as many as 20,000 (or were, before my hiatus) Marketmanila readers who will read this post. Maybe 8,000-10,000 of them based in the Philippines, while the rest probably fairly close to relatives back home in the Philippines. If that core of say 10,000 consumers discusses the contents of this post with just 4 other families that choose to vote with their wallets, that would be say 50,000 people thinking smarter about their produce expenditures. Now say they spend PHP1,000 a week for fruits and vegetables (that’s modest for us, we spend far more)… that would be a whopping PHP50 million a week in produce buying power. Or PHP2.6billion a year! You don’t think retailers would start to feel and react to that? They would. Remember what I said up top, at least 3 or 4 large grocery chains are watching this series of price posts… :)
Happy informed shopping!
P.S. So when are we doing the price comparisons for meat and seafood? Hahaha. I have visions of some groceries posting my photo at their guard stations and refusing me entry the next time I need to buy toilet paper. :)
P.P.S. A HUGE THANK YOU to all readers that submitted partial and full price surveys, your efforts are greatly appreciated. A special thanks to Artisan who canvassed some 4-5 different groceries in Cebu City. Salamat!
P.P.P.S. Why don’t the food sections of the broadsheet newspapers publish surveys and analyses like these once a month or so? Wouldn’t that be more interesting to the readership and consuming public than some ridiculous and often vapid article on some self-promoting restaurant or food product laced with MSG, or poorly written, researched or “lifted” articles?