9 supermarkets scrutinised – costs of packaged v loose items

More and more consumers are getting concerned about the use of plastics.

Whether it is cups in take away coffee shops, plastic straws or vegetable packaging, the concern and scrutiny over the apparent needless use of plastic is growing. With this in mind, I decided, with the help of some fellow bloggers, to undertake some research into supermarket use of plastics. The findings were more surprising than you would think. The research was also picked up by the Daily Mail Supermarkets accused of punishing shoppers who want to use less plastic as they charge more for fruit and veg that is sold loose and not in trays or wrappers.

Fruit and vegetables

I wrote a shopping list, which for this section was:

6 tomatoes loose
6 tomatoes in packaging
500g cherry tomatoes loose
500g cherry tomatoes in box
seedless grapes 500g loose
seedless grapes 500g in box
250g mushrooms loose
250g mushrooms in box
3 peppers loose
3 peppers in plastic wrap
A cauliflower
A cauliflower in plastic wrap
6 gala apples loose
pack of gala apples
6 pink lady apples
bag of pink lady apples
Pack of avocados
2 avocados
4 baking potatoes
bag of baking potatoes

We then bought the items at nine different supermarkets and retail outlets.

We found that biggest discrepancy in prices was with peppers. Here are the prices of 3 peppers bought loose and 3 peppers in plastic wrap.

Shop 3 peppers loose 3 peppers in plastic
Tesco £1.65 £0.95
M & S £1.50 £1.50
Sainsbury’s £1.65 £1.00
Aldi £1.59 £0.92
Lidl £1.47 £0.95
Morrisons £1.80 £0.97
Waitrose £1.45 £1.50
Co-op £1.95 £0.95
Asda £1.65 £0.95

Red and green pepper 60p bags of peppers £1.17In Marks and Spencer, peppers are the same price whether in plastic or not and actually 5p cheaper when bought loose in Waitrose. All the other supermarkets charge more for loose peppers, the worst culprit is the Co-Op where peppers are 51% cheaper in plastic.

Whilst we may expect to pay more for convenience, Emma Maslin from The Money Whisperer blog is frustrated that not only is most fruit and veg sold packaged, she also ends up having to buy more than she needs. “Co-op is my local convenience store and the place I tend to go for my mid-week top up shops when I need a few bits or have run out of something unexpectedly. If I want to pop in if I’m missing a pepper for a meal, or a piece of fruit for a lunchbox at the end of the week, I find it disappointing that most fruit and veg is sold packaged and not loose.”

Marks and Spencer and Waitrose led the way again with Gala apples. It was cheaper to buy them loose than in a packet. At the other end of the scale Tesco charges 24% to buy them loose than in a bag. Close on Tesco heels is Asda selling them at 23% more and Morrisons at 19%.

Shop 6 gala apples loose Bag of 6 gala apples
Tesco £2.10 £1.60
M & S £1.85 £2.25
Sainsbury’s £1.80 £1.50
Aldi £1.38 £1.29
Morrisons £1.86 £1.50
Waitrose £1.86 £2.00
Asda £1.75 £1.35

The science

Ethylene is released by fruits and vegetables which stimulates ripening and spoilage of produce nearby. This starts a chain reaction and can contribute to food waste. So if you have a rotting item of fruit stored with other fruit it will speed up their rotting. Most of us know that bananas of course will speed up the ripening/over ripening of fruit hence the banana holders! So supermarkets say that they need to package to prolong life. More work needs to be done to determine the food waste due to people buying more than they need and the damaging effects of plastics in the environment.

Consistency

With this in mind it is hard to understand the lack of consistency in loose and packaging prices within and across supermarkets. Why can one supermarket make loose apples cheaper than packaged but not another supermarket?

Here is the situation with the humble baking potato, whether it comes loose or bagged:

Shop Baking potatoes loose per kilo Baking potatoes bag per kilo
Tesco £1.10 £1.43
M & S £2.00 £1.85
Sainsbury’s £1.00 £1.10
Lidl £0.49 £0.72
Morrisons £0.81 £1.00
Waitrose £1.08 £0.84

Despite Tesco and Morrisons both charging more for plasticated peppers and apples than for loose, they both charge less (Tesco 30%, Morrisons 23%) for loose baking potatoes than for bagged ones! Lidl charge a whopping 47% less for loose potatoes compared with the bagged ones.

Marks and Spencer and Waitrose are the opposite! They both charge more for loose potatoes than bagged!

This becomes all the more confusing when checking supermarkets for overall prices.

Supermarket Items available loose Items available packaged Items cheaper loose Items cheaper packaged Same price
Tesco 7 10 3 4 0
M & S 6 8 3 3 0
Sainsbury’s 7 10 2 3 2
Aldi 5 10 2 2 0
Lidl 3 9 1 2 0
Morrisons 7 10 3 4 0
Waitrose 6 10 6 1 0
Co-op 3 8 1 1 0
Asda 4 9 1 2 0
Total 48 84 22 22 2

Lidl, Aldi and Asda offered the fewest loose alternatives compared to packaged items.

Oddly many supermarkets offer grapes “loose” when in fact they still come in a bag as opposed to a box. None of the bloggers were able to understand why a cauliflower needs to come in open plastic either! I don’t think they are alone!cauliflower in plasticgrapes "loose" in plastic and grapes packaged

Michelle, who blogs as Utterlyscrummy and shopped at Asda, was disappointed with the lack of loose fruit, and especially vegetables, there. Eileen at YourMoneySorted researched Lidl and added “I am a huge fan of Lidl, because they offer really great value for money. However, doing this has really emphasised to me how few options there are to buy loose food, thereby making it more difficult to choose more environmentally friendly options.”

The money bloggers armed with their lists also found difficulty comparing like with like in some cases.

Faith at Much More  With Less said “Principles are expensive! It’s frustrating when some packs are labelled with cost per item, like per apple, rather than per kilo, making it more difficult to compare prices. I was surprised how much food was cheaper wrapped in plastic packaging than when sold loose.”

Deli counters

The money bloggers looked at the deli counters where available and compared the prices of counter products with fridge prices and the types of packaging used. At the counter fish, meat and cheeses are displayed without packaging. Is there then a need to add plastic?

The shopping list for this section was:

Tuna 220g – steak fridge and counter
Prawns 200g – coldwater fridge and freezer
Cod fillets 250g – fridge and counter
Mature cheddar – 500g fridge and counter
Stilton – 200g fridge and counter
Ham cooked – 125g fridge and counter
Sausages – 454g 8 sausages fridge and counter

Here are the results of the mystery shopping for those items:

Supermarket Items available at counter Items packaged in fridge Items cheaper from counter Items cheaper from fridge Same price
Tesco 7 7 5 1 1
Sainsbury’s 6 6 1 4 0
Morrisons 5 7 2 3 0
Waitrose 6 7 3 2 1
Total 24 27 11 10 2

The products tended, in general, to be cheaper from the deli counter. However, is this less packaging and do the supermarkets do as much as they can to reduce the packaging further? The money bloggers asked staff at the counters if they could bring and use their own packaging. The answers were a little bemusing:

Tesco said they wouldn’t allow it.

Sainsbury’s said that if someone wants to use their own containers they can do so. But to avoid cross contamination they would have to weigh the items on plastic wrap, and it would then be thrown away. That would use the same amount of plastic as if someone hadn’t brought their own container.

Morrisons said it would be fine to bring in boxes. The counter staff would weigh food on their scales, then provide a sticker with the relevant info and hand over food to put in my boxes. It wasn’t clear if they would use plastic here or the trays.

Waitrose said they wouldn’t allow it.

Cross contamination was cited as a reason for not allowing customers to use their own containers or having to use plastic. But it wasn’t clear why different boxes couldn’t be put on one piece of paper on the scales.

Pricing overall

Bizarrely the research also threw up an unexpected issue for Jamie from ThriftyMummaThriftyBubba, who shopped at Aldi. “As a family we regularly shop at Aldi and like the low prices without compromising quality. Unfortunately, the Aldi staff in the 3 separate stores I visited were unable to give me the price per kilo of individual items. They were also reluctant to let me weigh an individual item on the till which would have allowed me to work out the price per kilo myself. They also had no idea if Aldi HQ would have this information. So, who knows if it truly is better value for money or not because I couldn’t compare price by weight in store!”

Waitrose came out best for prices, which were cheaper for buying loose than packaged. The other supermarkets were as bad as each other and the statistics on prices were mainly hindered by lack of availability of certain products.

All the supermarkets sold more packaged items than loose items.

Emma Bradley from MumsSavvySavings who shopped at Sainsbury’s was shocked at how much cheaper the packaged items were. Emma Drew from EmmaDrew has started to make a conscious effort to cut back on my plastic use, but found that sticking to a grocery budget meant that it isn’t always possible. “I am surprised at how much cheaper pre-packaged foods, with extra plastic, are than the alternatives. I would love to see supermarkets using less plastic, and making what plastic they do use recyclable.

Packaging

So, which supermarket is better at encouraging consumers to buy loose rather than in packaging, where the item was available to buy both loose and packaged? Catherine from The Money Panel feels Waitrose still has a long way to go despite leading in the price of loose compared to packaged. It is still selling many more packaged fruit and vegetables than loose. “As a family we always shop at Waitrose because we love the quality of the food. I do get very frustrated at the amount of packaging I recycle within minutes of unpacking our order. It’s a huge waste.”

The Complaining Cow and Tesco CEOsIt’s not just the fact that consumers buy the packaged items because they are frequently cheaper. It is also wasting food. This is a common criticism from customers who live on their own. Regulars on this blog will know that I have quite a History with Tesco. In September 2016 I interviewed The UK CEO Matt Davies and Group CEO Dave Lewis. I asked about this wasting of food for people living on their own. Last year I interviewed the then new Chief Customer Officer and questioned her on this issue too. She agreed with me and mentioned some of what they were doing. But seems they have a long way to go!

Ruth from RuthmakesMoney, who looked at Marks and Spencer, says “As I’m usually cooking just for myself, I find it hugely frustrating that it’s so often much cheaper and easier to buy a pack of items like peppers rather than buying them individually. It sometimes feels like waste is inevitable. I’d love to see supermarkets offering more items in smaller quantities, whilst cutting down on unnecessary packaging.”

Co-Op packaged and loose tomatoes "supermarkets under the spotlight packaged items cheaper than loose"

Supermarkets comments

All the supermarkets were asked to comment on our findings:

Morrisons said “It’s not an easy issue as the plastic on fruit and veg also has the function of preserving it and avoiding food waste. We’re working through it” and  referred me to their statement on packaging.

Marks and Spencer said “On what M&S is doing on packaging and waste, we have a number of commitments and initiatives under way in these areas. (More details on their site).

Aldi commented “Aldi’s model is based on simplicity and efficiency, which creates operational cost savings which are passed on to customers in the form of low prices. Aldi does not have scales in its stores and loose fruit and veg is priced per item. Customers can purchase some of Aldi’s best-selling fruit and veg lines (by volume) in loose form including bananas, potatoes and peppers. Earlier this year Aldi announced a comprehensive plan to reduce plastic, including a commitment that all packaging on its own-label products will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022”

Sainsbury’s said “We’re focused on offering our customers choice, quality and value. We will offer fruit and veg without packaging where we can, as long as it doesn’t compromise the quality and shelf life of the product. We’re also committed to ensuring our packaging is as recyclable as it can be and are one of few retailers to invest in recycling facilities at many of our supermarkets. In addition, we’re a member of the UK Plastics Pact and have committed to meeting collective targets by 2025.” (More details on their website).

Our colleagues also allow customers to use their own containers. As our colleagues explained in store, before we transfer the product to a customer’s container, we use a small amount of plastic to weigh and transfer the items for safety reasons.”

The Daily Mail asked the supermarkets for comment. Many of them said that the research wasn’t comparing like with like because some products were bigger than others! This is twaddle. Items were compared by weight! The reason I asked the bloggers to weigh everything was so that it WAS a fair comparison. (Rolling eyes emoticon!)

Lidl, get this, apparently said that they sell red peppers loose and the packaged ones were different colours! The price of a red pepper? 59p Pack of three coloured peppers? 95p So they are actually saying that a yellow or green pepper would be half the price of a red one?! They were all the same price in every other supermarket! Clutching at straws? And I don’t suppose they are environmentally friendly ones either!

 The most bizarre of all?

Paper bag with carrots, parsnips and broccoli and the plastic bags that were added

 

This week I had my Tesco order delivered. In my order were parsnips, cauliflower, carrots and onions. Tesco uses brown recyclable bags for fruit and veg. For no apparent reason, they were all put into separate plastic bags inside the brown paper bag. I cannot fathom why? Any suggestions?

 

 

 

So what can be done?

In January of this year, Theresa May committed to the UK eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042. This target, more than a generation away, has been widely criticised by environmental groups as “lacking urgency”. UK supermarkets still pay less for collecting and recycling their plastic waste than in any other European country! Tax payers pick up 90% of the costs.

Most of the supermarkets have signed up to a voluntary pact, whose promises include removing “problematic or unnecessary” single-use plastic by 2025, making 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable, with 70% effectively recycled or composted and all plastic packaging to include 30% average recycled content. None of this is enforceable.

In March of this year the world’s first “plastic-free” aisle opened in the Netherlands. Launched by the Dutch chain Ekoplaza in Amsterdam, the aisle will offer over 700 products with no plastic packaging. UK consumers and campaigners are calling for UK supermarkets here to do the same, but no supermarket has agreed to do this yet. It appears to be consumer pressure that gets thing moving in the industry. It is therefore up to us, as consumers, to keep up that pressure and get the change that’s so clearly needed.

If you want to contact a CEO to tell them what you think of their policies you can find their contact detail on ceoemail.com.

 

 

Tesco doing more than their “Fare Share”?

Well far be it for me to praise Tesco! The Complaining Cow’s history with Tesco. But give them their due here and it’s about time other supermarkets followed suit, Tesco has been doing this for years but this year I think it is back bigger and better than before.

Volunteer with donations for foodbanksFrom today (30th November) until the 2nd December, Tesco is inviting people to shop for Trussell Trust and Fare Share. If you are in store, doing your shopping, add a few things in for the foodbanks and Tesco will distribute everything. But better than that they are actually topping up the donations by 20%. That will be in money to help support the organisations with more food purchases and running costs for the year.

More from Tesco about it here.

Lindsay Boswell, Chief Executive of FareShare said:
“Tesco has demonstrated real leadership in tackling food waste. Over and above the large volumes of surplus food they provide us, Tesco should be applauded for how they have embedded FareShare into all aspects their business – from distribution centres to stores and fresh food to ambient. Tesco’s level of commitment to using their surplus food for social good, has helped provide millions of meals for vulnerable people across the UK.”

Reverse Advent calendar
You may have been involved in the Reverse Advent calendar campaign? It’s not too late you can join in this too. That link will give you more background on the need for foodbanks and ideas for how you can help and information on the variety of things you can buy.

Increasing donations at no cost to you
To make your donation go even further, sign up to the shopping apps Shopmium* and Checkoutsmart. Install these apps on your phone and next time you go shopping have a look to see what is available for free or discount. (You buy the items then send picture of barcode and receipt and get refund). It’s to encourage you to buy more obviously! But items change regularly and you’ll always be able to find something you can get for free. Get these in addition to anything else you do and pop them in the Tesco trolley and it will be worth that 20% more! I have been getting lots of babyfood for free and donating that! Imagine if we all did that and Tesco gave a further 20%!

Check out Zeek* before you shop. You can sell and buy gift cards with a discount on Zeek for any retailer in store and online. Sometimes you can get supermarkets so worth a look and indeed for any of your other Christmas shopping.

*These are affiliate links which means that if you go through and sign up you and I will get £3- 5 and when you shop at Tesco in this short period, foodbanks gain some extra items and Tesco will lose a few pounds with everything you buy.

Wins all round!

 

Tesco insect in raspberries!

Time for a Tesco complaint story. Well would be a shame not to wouldn’t it? For those new here see History with Tesco!

So, there I was down at my Mum’s and she bought some raspberries and cream. She did this little shriek when she nearly put some sort of flying insect thing in her mouth ‘cos it was stuck on a raspberry. Now, given that I once found an insect in Tesco rice a few years back and how Tesco dealt with it – I refused to take back to the store as not knowing if it would get “lost” in the post. Anyway, I sent it for them to investigate and they found out what insect it was and gave me £30 for my trouble. This was in Clarke’s day and I wondered if things had changed.

Now, having met Dave Lewis the group CEO a few times including interviewing him last year I thought I’d email him. Normally I wouldn’t expect a CEO to respond directly but I thought well he knows me and I’ll use my normal humour and see if it makes him smile.

See if it does you?

Dave

Before your time at Tesco I bought some rice from Tesco with an insect alive in it. I named him Phillip. Insect in rice.

But now there’s big trouble because I’m down at my Mum’s and she bought some raspberries from Tesco. (Taunton). Raspberries and cream we had and she just stopped short of putting some in her mouth as some thing very big with lots of wiggily wriggly legs crawled out of a raspberry. It may have had wings but there was a bit of a cream crust so can’t be sure. Was hoping to film him crawling but my mother suffocated him with some Tesco finest clotted cream. Not a bad way for Mike to go I suppose but even so Tesco has upset my Mum now and so, well, that has to be at least an email to the CEO obviously! She was very cross which means I am. But I won’t bother with the stuff that I usually put in these things regarding legal stuff and redress because I trust you to do right by my mum!

I have Mike ready to post to Tesco for testing to see what it was and where it came from. If he has wings we may need to change the name to Saint Michael.

Happy Easter

Kind regards
Helen

Well we thought it was funny. I’d normally do the kind of email that always gets results regarding Consumer Rights Act 2015 etc etc. But got the usual email from the executive office. They took a long time getting back to me with no reference to the story. Miserable whatsits. They told the supplier but didn’t want the raspberries to check what it was. They gave my mum £20.

Well my Mum was pleased….

Tesco Group CEO email or Tesco UK CEO contact details  should you need them.

The customer is still the boss. Interview with the new Tesco Chief Customer Officer

Regular followers of this blog know that I have quite a history with Tesco. From predicting Philp Clarke’s demise, taking the company to court (and winning), meeting Dave Lewis the group CEO and his executive team, continuing to criticise various initiatives such as fake farms and interviewing Dave Lewis (Group CEO and Matt Davies (UK CEO) in a filmed exclusive last year.

So, not being one to miss an opportunity, when Alessandra Bellini joined Tesco on 1 March 2017 to become their Chief Customer Officer I requested an interview!

So who is Alessandra Bellini and what is she responsible for?

Alessandra Bellini is the new Chief Customer Officer at Tesco, reporting to Dave Lewis, and putting the customer at the heart of everything that Tesco does.

Prior to joining Tesco, Alessandra worked at Unilever for over 20 years, latterly as the Vice President for the Food Category in North America and Food General Manager for the USA. She has a track record in growing global and local brands as well as a passion for developing her people. An international executive, Italian-born, Alessandra has held executive-level roles in markets including Italy and Central and Eastern Europe. (Tesco press release).

Alessandra is responsible for everything customer related and believes that it a fantastic opportunity to work for a company with 460,000 employees. She is very pleasant and personable and I’m not sure whether she thought I’d give her a hard grilling or not! To be fair, she’s only been there a little over two months, so I wasn’t too mean!

What does she want to achieve?
I ask her what she wants to achieve in the first, third and fifth years of her role (bearing in mind that her predecessors have never lasted more than a couple of years!) Alessandra says that she’s not letting me know the specific targets for every day, next month or years, but she will be focussing on building the Tesco brand so that it becomes strong again as it used to be. It’s important to her to regain customers’ trust with a sustainable vision for the long term. That’s the headline. She is quite clear that it’s not a finite process to serve customers better. She wants to continue to talk to customers and listen to those who care, like me, she adds! Oh good, I think, another Tesco person to whom I can complain! 🙂

What are her biggest challenges?
She is quite candid explaining that she feels she has two very different ones. Firstly an internal one, a steep learning curve to understand the current issues, while at the same time looking towards the future. Secondly, the biggest external one is regaining customers’ trust. She feels that Tesco has started this process strongly, the recent results presentation shows that the Tesco brand is the most improved in the last year and that quality has improved.

Alessandra talks about how Tesco is simplifying offers and price and continues to do so more and more regularly. She acknowledges that the path is not smooth and that she has a long journey in front of her but that she tries to read comments from customers on a daily basis as part of gaining ideas.

Her main priority is to earn trust. “I would like to earn trust, being honest in activities and communications with customers. The challenge is to do this in an interesting and engaging way with them. It’s super important to listen to new ideas which is a challenge for any company, particularly ours, given its size”.

It is of course Dave Lewis’ mantra, to listen (after all, before he even started he told me to keep complaining as it was the only way they would improve!) and for Tesco to behave its way better, so it comes as no surprise that he has chosen someone for this role who echoes his aspirations for the company.

Are big changes coming too quickly for customers?
It has been reported that Dave Lewis has made, and continues to make, a lot of cuts which affect the customer, such as stacking shelves in the evening rather than overnight, and cuts to some 24 hour stores. Customers have reported to me that they have found some changes annoying, for example one cited changes to home delivery in her area. I asked Alessandra how she thought these changes will affect customers’ perception of Tesco service and convenience?

She starts by saying that Matt Davies, UK CEO is more informed to answer this question! But says that everything they do is with customers in mind to simplify the trip. There are lots of changes to try and simplify things and to be able to focus on customers more, with better support for staff to help everyone through new systems. She tries to assure me that the changes have been shown to make improvements and that they take a view then learn and are always learning.  She is excited by a company this size, decisively listening and learning new ways.

There are, of course, cuts in some areas and whether they are all driven by improvements for the customer remains to be seen and perhaps I’ll have to challenge Matt Davies a little more?!

As Alessandra is adamant that she is all about making changes and improvements for the customer, I ask her if there has been anything specific in which she has been involved? She tells me that she worked on the finishing touches of the Tesco health campaign Helpful Little Swaps.  This includes the reformulation of their own brand, offering fruit and healthy alternatives, as well as free blood pressure and cholesterol tests. The little steps are apparently coming from observing colleagues and customers. There’s still more to come and more work to be undertaken to make it more visible. (I have already fed back that if Tesco wants to show me healthier alternatives to my usual choices, it needs to be better for online shopping. I want to be able to click on my items and say “show me a better alternative”. Watch this space, particularly as Alessandra insists that Tesco will be ensuring that healthier alternatives will not be more expensive).

 

She is particularly proud of the basket comparison of products and their healthier alternatives and urges me to go into store and look.

 

Of particular interest to me though is that she touched upon assisting people with disabilities, improving accessible toilets and recognising that not all disabilities are visible. (Interesting comment on that Tesco post showing there’s a long way to go). I return to disabilities later in the interview.

Empowering customers
When I interviewed Dave last autumn I gave him a complaint/question from my Mum! Living on her own she doesn’t want to buy a huge bag of oranges, she wants to buy just a few, so why can’t she? Now, Dave answered that he wanted to work towards customers feeling empowered to do things like open up a bag of oranges and buy one when no single ones available. So! Has this happened I ask?

Alessandra agrees with my Mum. Clearly Alessandra is a sensible woman! She explains that they are working with store managers to accommodate customers. For example in convenience and express stores people are able to buy one apple or a loose banana as they walk to work etc. and that it is less likely in bigger stores because they are more for family shops. But, I argue, the bigger the number of customers overall the more single people will be shopping there too! They still need to do their weekly shop, they just don’t need loads of oranges! She agrees and insists that they are leaving it to local store managers to do what is right for their customers.

It looks like they have moved away from empowering customers to feel comfortable in breaking a bag of fruit when single ones aren’t available and empowering store managers instead. And I have to say my Mum is still complaining that she has to buy a big bag of potatoes for roasting/mashing and that vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli (often pointlessly packaged) are too big. So, more work needed in this area, thank you. Tesco may need to do more to try to get feedback from customers who don’t usually interact with them. That’s always a challenge and I don’t think many companies understand that. I do, a lot.

Improving accessibility for people with disabilities
Having already touched upon this area, I was keen to find out more and ask what Tesco currently does to ensure access to all services for everyone, including those with disabilities and what Tesco is going to do to improve in this area?

Alessandra is keen to tell me that she believes every customer has the right to shop with Tesco. Tesco is working in partnership with a disability organisation and forum in improving aspects of the shopping experience and becoming smarter. For example, it is currently experimenting with special trolleys for disabled children and has already been running the quiet shop times for children with autism and is now developing slow lanes for people with dementia. Visual Impairment Audio Mapping – Tesco is trialling in Reading Extra (in partnership with the charity Guide Dogs) this month, the second phase of audio mapping in stores, where customers who have a severe visual impairment will be able to “listen” their way round the stores. The trial works like google maps on an audio basis where the stores and products are mapped and customers can be guided round the shop by it, allowing for greater independence. An industry first so will be interesting to see who it develops. Stories are coming from colleagues but she is aware that they need to do more and be better with sensitivity in this area.

Those BOGOFs and other “special” offers
I show Alessandra a screenshot:
Complaining Cow challenges Tesco on pricing 
Whilst a lot of BOGOF items have gone, here’s an example of something that’s still confusing:  Which is cheaper? Cathedral City Lighter at £2.00 for 350g (£5.72/kg) or Tesco Lighter at £2.00 for 250g (£8.00/kg) when the “two for £3.00” option is used the price per kg is not given on the shelf. So the maths to work out which is cheaper is to divide price by weight in kg to get price per kg. So, using normal prices:

£2.00/0.350 gives £5.72/kg (Cathedral City) and £2.00/0.250 (Tesco Lighter) gives £8.00/kg. Using the “special offer”: Two for £3.00 means the price for one is £1.50 So: £1.50/0.350 (Cathedral City) gives £4.29/kg or £1.50/0.250 (Tesco Lighter) gives £6.00/kg. That’s what you want to be doing when out shopping, huh?

Alessandra points out that BOGOF offers have been reduced by 24%. But this particular offer is an example of where one has to stand there at the aisle and work out what is the cheapest. Alessandra explains that the Cathedral will be cheaper but I’m not sure if she sees my point. Some people’s maths might not be as good or as speedy as hers and for most of us time is of the essence. She does, however, concur that there is more work to do here to make sure these kind of offers are made more understandable. There are also offers that suppliers make which they have to go with sometimes but I am assured that Tesco continues to work on more honest pricing.

The interview comes to an end as we’ve run over time. It’s a pity as me being me I had more questions and well, I know my Mum would have wanted me to challenge a bit more, if nothing else! Another time, another time!

 

Casual sexism is alive and kicking in UK boardrooms

Only a day after International Women’s Day, at a Retail Week seminar entitled “How to become a non-exec director”, one was left wondering what role women had as non-executive directors. The session was provided by three male chairmen of boards, one male commercial director and one male chair of panel. Perhaps someone should have a word with the organiser about ensuring some diversity?

During the seminar John Allan, chair of the Tesco board, made remarks about white men becoming an endangered species. The full comment was “If you are female and from an ethnic minority background, preferably both you are in an extremely prepicious period so go for it frankly. For a thousand years, men have got most of these jobs, the pendulum has swung very significantly the other way now and will do for the foreseeable future, I think, so you are at an advantage. If you are a white male, tough. You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.” Harry Wallop, a journalist who chaired the panel, told him to look around the room to see that white men were not an endangered species. Allan later claimed the comments were meant to be humorous and that the audience had enjoyed his “colourful turn of speech” and that he intended to be “humorous, a bit hyperbolic”

I was at that seminar. I did not enjoy the speech, I cringed for him. It was the kind of painful out-of-touch comment only too commonly trotted out by men in the guise of “humour”, with no understanding of the issues or how their comments contribute to the problem of bias towards men in senior positions.

Tesco has 11 board members and 8 of them are men, meaning that at Tesco they’re hardly an endangered species. His comments made it sound like all women would be welcome, regardless of their skills. Why wasn’t he saying something along the lines of “Tesco would welcome applications from more women who are currently under-represented on the board?” We know that there are women out there who can equal or better the skillset of existing board members and Tesco, alongside the majority of other boards, should be saying the same. Allan’s full comments were not reported anywhere, shame really as I (and I’m sure many of us who believe in equality and know that we haven’t reached it) also took issue with the comment “..you are at an advantage.”

He wasn’t the only one casually giving out the sexism though. When asked for advice on taking the first steps into non-exec directorship Jim Pringle from Notum Associates said “…your chairman may be able to help you..”. When asked about how much he gets involved with the CEO, Peter Williams chairman of  Boohoo.com, Mister Spex and U and I Group said “…the CEO is employed to run the business and the executive is employed to support him run the business…”

Maybe they have a point, According to the subsequent Guardian article Call to boycott Tesco over ‘endangered’ white men claim “In the private sector, women accounted for just 29% of directors appointed in the UK last year, according to the recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, the lowest proportion since 2012.”

There are only 6 women CEOs in the FTSE 100. SIX! And the proportion of female directors among FTSE 100 companies is just 26%. The lack of ethnic diversity is a further serious issue on UK boards. According to reports last year, only 8% of those directors were not white, whereas people from minority ethnic backgrounds made up 14% of the UK’s overall workforce.

“Every little helps” is a slogan inextricably linked to Tesco. It’s about time Tesco helped itself to some female talent and helped women by taking their contribution to the workplace seriously, stopped paying lip service to equality and undertook some good diversity training to boot. I may have to put my foot in that boot…

For various stories relating to Tesco and me see History with Tesco which covers taking them to court and winning, various complaints, meetings and interviewing Dave Lewis and Matt Davies.