Marks & Spencer said it has slashed prices for its new Re-Marks-able Value campaign, which officially launched last month.
But have the new deals really made the high-end food retailer an affordable option compared to other supermarkets?
With more and more shoppers ditching the 'big four' supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco – in favour of Aldi and Lidl, there's been an intense focus on groceries that are not only cheap but high-quality to boot.
So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Marks & Spencer has sought to follow suit with a marketing blitz that highlights both price and quality.
M&S Food has lowered the prices of over 500 products, with a focus on products that families buy most frequently such as eggs, milk and meat.
We know M&S is never likely to be the place you do your big monthly shop, but does this new launch by the food retailer make it a viable option for smaller shops?
We compare some of the products to see where is cheapest to get your weekly essentials.
It is also important to repeat that Marks & Spencer is putting a big emphasis on the fact that a decrease in price will not mean a decrease in quality, therefore we've tried to compare supermarket products of a similar standard to those sold by M&S.
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M&S milk, four pints for £1.15
Milk is one of the most consistently priced products across the board, which is why it’s regularly used in the basket of goods used to calculate inflation.
Asda, Aldi, Lidl and Tesco sell four pints for £1.09, while Morrisons charges £1.10.
As with all groceries, quality plays into the price. M&S milk is 5p more expensive than elsewhere but it is RSPCA assured, unlike the brands above.
It is also covered by the company’s Milk Pledge, which ensures that farmers are paid fairly.
essential Waitrose milk is the same price as M&S at £1.15 per four pints, but it is not RSPCA assured.
If we only compare M&S milk with products that come with some kind of certification of the quality, such as an RSPCA or Soil Association stamp of approval, then M&S is far cheaper than the alternatives.
The best option we found that has a similar guarantee is Morrisons organic British semi-skimmed milk, which is £1.80 for four pints and is Soil Association approved.
Verdict: Given the quality guarantee that comes with buying M&S milk, I'd argue it's great value despite it being a tad more expensive than the average price of the other supermarkets.
Granulated sugar, 1kg for 70p
There’s only a 5p difference between the cheapest and the priciest granulated sugar at the supermarkets we looked at, and M&S is at the expensive end of the scale.
Asda, Lidl, Waitrose, and Tesco all sell 1kg of Silver Spoon granulated sugar for less than M&S (65p, 65p, 69p and 69p respectively), whilst Morrisons and Sainsbury’s also sell a kilo for 70p.
Aldi does not display its prices for sugar online.
Verdict: Compared to the other food retailers, this offer from M&S is pricier for the same product.
M&S Select Farm eggs, six for 90p
M&S only stocks free-range eggs, which have been reduced to 90p as part of the Re-Marks-able campaign.
However, free-range eggs are cheaper or the same price at almost every other supermarket bar Waitrose, which charges £1.
Aldi has the cheapest free-range eggs at 75p for six, followed by Morrisons, Asda and Tesco, which charge 80-84p.
There are no prices available online for Lidl's free-range eggs.
Like M&S, Sainsbury's also charges 90p for six of its Happy Eggs.
Verdict: M&S does have high welfare standards when it comes to eggs, but you needn’t feel guilty for buying them elsewhere if they're also free-range, as they'll probably be cheaper.
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Super Soft White medium sliced loaf, 800g for 65p
M&S has a range of ‘super soft’ loaves for 65p, and whilst it’s difficult to tell how the softness compares to loaves from other stores, in terms of price it falls in the middle of the pack.
Aldi, Morrisons and Waitrose have 800g white loaves that are cheaper than the M&S bread, ranging from 49-60p, but it does beat Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Tesco, whose bread all costs upwards of 70p.
Lidl has the cheapest medium sliced loaf at 36p, whilst Waitrose has the priciest at £1.
Verdict: It depends on what you want in a loaf as to whether this is good value. For example, Marks & Spencer is the only retailer to enrich all its bread with vitamin D.
If that’s important to you then 65p is a great deal but if not, maybe consider the soft loaves from other shops.
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Fruit and veg
Aldi does not display all of its prices for fresh fruit and vegetables online, so it has not been included for comparison in this section.
M&S Select Farm gala apples, £1.50 per pack
If you’re looking for British Royal Gala apples in the supermarket, you’ll struggle to find them outside of M&S. All of the other supermarkets that we checked import their Gala apples from other countries, according to their websites.
Despite not coming from the UK, the packets of Gala apples from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco are all considerably pricier than in M&S, ranging from £1.75-2.25.
You can find them a lot cheaper if you aren’t bothered about where the apples come from – Asda currently has a pack of six on offer for £1, whilst Lidl has a slightly smaller pack of five available for 99p.
Verdict: M&S Gala apples are a great deal, especially if you're looking to shop more locally to reduce your carbon footprint.
Bananas, 1kg for 84p
There isn’t a huge difference in the price of bananas across the supermarkets, with M&S, Asda and Tesco all offering a kilo of the fruit for 84p.
Lidl came in slightly cheaper at 82p for a kilo of bananas, while there were no prices available for Aldi at the time of publishing.
Sainsbury’s bananas are a smidge pricier at 85p for a kilo, however its bananas are Fairtrade, as are Waitrose bananas which cost 88p per kilo.
It’s worth pointing out that the Re-Marks-able Value bananas are not Fairtrade, but M&S does sell both Fairtrade and organic bananas outside of the range.
Verdict: Price-wise, it doesn’t make a huge difference where you do your banana shopping, but for Fairtrade fruit that is only a fraction pricier than the not-as-ethical alternative, head to Sainsbury’s rather than M&S.
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M&S broccoli, 60p each
Most broccoli is priced per head rather than by weight, which means that comparing the product isn’t an exact science, but the M&S broccoli fared well compared to all of the featured supermarkets apart from, rather surprisingly, Waitrose.
Waitrose is the only supermarket to be selling individual heads of broccoli at a cheaper rate than M&S at 46p per vegetable, whilst Asda is on par with the Re-Marks-able Value broccoli at 60p, but only as part of a rollback offer (normally 65p).
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are all more expensive than M&S, ranging from 64p to 70p. Lidl actually has the most expensive broccoli, at 82p per head.
Verdict: If you aren't willing to make the trip to Waitrose just for its reasonably-priced broccoli, M&S is your next best bet for grabbing some good value greenery.
M&S Mixed Peppers, three for £1.30
The value of M&S' three-pack of peppers hasn’t stacked up too well compared to other food retailers, with Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons all offering three peppers for 99p-£1.25.
Sainsbury’s and Lidl are the only supermarkets to offer three individual peppers for cheaper than M&S’ packaged peppers at £1.29 and £1.26 respectively, which means it’s not only more cost-effective but also better for the environment to buy your peppers at either of these stores.
Verdict: The three-pack of peppers definitely isn’t the highlight of the M&S Re-Marks-able Value range, especially considering that they’re covered in plastic.
If you're looking to reduce the amount of plastic you're buying, look out for the plastic-free 'trust mark' that is being introduced in some UK supermarkets.
M&S carrots, 500g for 40p
Of the fresh veggies rebranded as Re-Marks-able Value by M&S, the carrots proved to be the worst deal as we were able to find the same amount of carrots for less money at every other retailer.
The deals were a mix of loose and packaged carrots, but Lidl came in cheapest at 7.5p per 500g thanks to an offer that it is currently running.
Even without the deal, the budget supermarket takes the top spot along with Sainsbury's, with 500g normally costing 25p at both supermarkets.
Even Waitrose has a cheaper alternative to M&S, with its loose carrots costing 35p for 500g.
Verdict: For carrots you can go to any other supermarket and it'll be cheaper than M&S, so maybe give the store a swerve if they're what you're looking to stock up on.
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Meat and fish
All M&S fish is sustainably sourced, so we factored this in when comparing products in other stores.
Scottish salmon fillets, two for £4
The Re-Marks-able Value fillets actually match Aldi price-wise, with both charging £4 for two pieces of Scottish salmon, which is quite impressive.
Aldi does sell cheaper salmon, but its RSPCA assured fish is the closest in quality to what M&S has on offer.
Lidl has the best deal available, with two deluxe Scottish salmon fillets that are RSPCA assured coming to £3.65.
Other supermarkets also sell salmon for less, but rather than having official seals of approval, like being RSPCA assured or MSC or ASC certified, the packaging features phrases such as ‘responsibly farmed’.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality or environmental impact of consuming their fish is worse, but there is some ambiguity as the terms aren’t strictly regulated, so they don’t guarantee high environmental and welfare standards.
Verdict: If you’re picky about where your salmon has come from, M&S is definitely one of the cheapest options for making sure that your fish supper is as sustainable as possible.
M&S Oakham chicken breast fillets, £4.50 for 570g (£7.89/kg)
Each retailer has its own definition of what good animal welfare entails, however, based on their websites, M&S and Waitrose are far clearer about where their meat comes from.
Both stores specify that their chickens are raised in barns and that they have very strict regulations regarding housing, access to food and water, and space.
The other supermarkets do not have this so in order to create a fair comparison, the M&S chicken has been compared to meat labelled as 'free-range' by other retailers.
With this parameter in place, the M&S Re-Marks-able Value chicken breasts fared well, costing £7.89 per kilogram.
This is considerably better value than Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, all of whom priced their chicken between £11.70 and £15.90 per kilo.
The essential Waitrose British chicken breast fillets are the only option that is cheaper at £7.50 per kilogram.
There are no prices available online for Aldi or Lidl's free-range chicken.
Although the chicken is part of the essential range, Waitrose guarantees that the quality of life of the birds goes ‘beyond the RSPCA’s recommendations’ and that all chickens have natural light and straw bales.
Verdict: M&S chicken was originally £5 for 570g (£8.77 for a kilo) which was already a good deal, but the introduction of Re-Marks-able Value price has made it even better.
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British beef 5% fat mince (500g), £3.50
M&S claims it is the only UK retailer that can track all of its beef back to the exact farm and animal that it came from, which makes the price tag even more impressive.
Aldi is the only supermarket to offer British beef mince for cheaper than M&S (£2.85 for 500g).
The next cheapest British mince can be found in Waitrose, which is 15p more expensive than M&S at £3.65 for 500g.
There are no prices available online for Lidl's British beef mince.
Verdict: M&S is definitely competitive when it comes to high-quality British beef mince, so as much as we’re undecided on the pun, it’s definitely offering Re-Marks-able value in this instance.
So is it cost-effective to do your weekly shop at M&S?
Although M&S provides a fairly limited list of the best deals online, there are Re-Marks-able Value products in almost every aisle in-store, and you really won't be able to miss the advertising as it's pretty much everywhere.
It really depends on the kind of items that you’re looking to buy from M&S as to whether or not the Re-Marks-able Value concept really rings true.
It's also difficult to tell how good the deals are compared to the previous prices, as these are not displayed and M&S wouldn't tell us.
For essentials, fresh fruit and veg the Marks & Spencer products that we looked at are a bit of a mixed bag, with prices ranging from great offers to the most expensive on the market.
For meat and fish products, where animal welfare is an important consideration, M&S is offering very competitive prices that rival even the cheapest supermarkets’ versions of similar products.
It also comes with the guarantee that you know what you’re eating is sustainable.
|Product||Re-Marks-able Value price (£)||Waitrose price (£)||Average supermarket price (£)||Cheapest (of similar quality)||Is M&S cheaper than average?|
|4 pints milk||1.15||1.15 (not RSPCA assured)||1.10||
|1kg granulated sugar||0.70||0.69||0.68||Asda/Lidl (65p)||No|
|6 eggs||0.90||1||0.86||Aldi (75p)||No|
|Soft white medium sliced bread||0.65||1||0.73||Aldi (49p)||Yes|
|Pack of Gala apples||1.50||2||1.70||
|1kg bananas||0.84||0.88||0.85||Lidl (82p)||Yes|
|3 peppers||1.30||1.20||1.23||Lidl (1.26)||No|
|500g carrots||0.49||0.35||0.31||Lidl/Sainsbury's (0.25)||No|
|2 Scottish salmon fillets||4||4.79 (no RSPCA assured)||3.88||Lidl (3.65)||No|
|1kg chicken breast||7.89||7.5||11.75||Waitrose (7.5)||Yes|
|500g British beef||3.5||3.65||3.57||Aldi (2.85)||Yes|
*M&S is the only food retailer to sell British Gala apples, but Lidl is the supermarket selling the cheapest Gala apples.
Marks & Spencer is unlikely to become a regular shopping destination for bargain hunters who are used to Aldi and Lidl prices.
That said, for families looking to cut the food bill whilst continuing to buy high-quality products with good ethical credentials, some of the Re-Marks-able Value products are definitely a good choice.