Saturday, 30 January 2010

Bothered about broccoli

Suddenly, something came over me.  I got fed up with the excuses and the waffle, and decided to take matters into my own hands.  I came home, dumped the shopping in the hall and set up this blog.

I was shopping in Sainsbury's this afternoon.  Not an unusual occurence, although I find since the opening of a couple of Pound Shops in the High Street, I spend less and less time (and consequently a heck of a lot less money) in there.  I'd actually gone in there to ask about their bread (more on this another time) and got sidetracked buying vegetables.  Onions, potatoes, a few mushrooms....and some broccoli.  Specifically "Basics" Broccoli.

Now, everyone knows the definition of "basic".  Bog standard, no-frills, the plainest version.  The lowest level in the scale that starts at the top with "Premium", then "Superior" then "Standard".....and then Basic.  A range defined by Sainsbury's on their website: "A range of Sainsbury's quality food and grocery at low prices, helping budget-conscious shoppers lower the cost of their weekly shop".  The florets were packed in a plastic bag and, frankly, didn't really look that great.  A bit limp, perhaps, and quite small.  But hey - "Basics".  You get what you pay for, after all.  Not nearly so nice-looking as those big, green, firm heads of broccoli in the crate immediately to the  right.  Still, they're probably much more expensive. 

But there, in a tiny black font somewhat smaller than the one you are now reading and very difficult indeed to pick out against the dark purple background of that part of the label, was the price of the "Basics" bag of broccoli.  £2.63 per kg.  And the price on the label on the crate of the other stuff?  Those big, green, firm heads of broccoli in the crate immediately to the right?  £1.97 per kg.  66p cheaper per kg than the Basics range. 

"This can't be right" I thought, and waved at a staff member.  I explained it to her and she admitted that she couldn't understand it either. She summoned "someone from the vegetable department" who, frankly, looked like she spent her spare time ripping the heads off puppies for fun.  She looked at me like I was a piece of dirt on a tomato and summoned "the Manager of the Vegetables".  I explained again.  Ah, said the Manager of the Vegetables, Basics Broccoli comes from, you know, broccoli that isn't from plants of the same standard.  The skinny ones, the rejected ones, the ones that haven't really made the grade.  But, I replied, why then is it more expensive than the stuff that has made the grade?  You know, the free-range broccoli stalks that have been lovingly tucked into their beds each night by a Sainsbury's Manager.  The broccoli that's had its picture taken on the Log Flume at Alton Towers?  Oh, she said, that comes from Spain.  But, I pointed out, the "Country of Origin" label on the "Basics" broccoli also says..... Spain.  Oh, she said.  I don't know, she said. I'll take it up with the Buyer she said.  And, without bothering to say goodbye or take my contact details, the Manager of the Vegetables walked off to shout at a couple of cucumbers who were larking about in the loading bay. 

So, I came home and summoned up the Genie from the "Sainsbury's Careline".  I repeated the story and the question: why is Basics Broccoli more expensive, kg for kg than the non-Basics broccoli?  "A possbile labelling error" was the Genie's only offered theory.  My theory: IT'S A FIDDLE.  That's why the price per kg is in such small, black type against such a dark background.  They're counting on the fact that people will automatically assume that the "Basics" range is better value for money. 

He promised to have someone investigate and call me back.  That was an hour ago. We'll see how long it takes them to respond and what they say. 


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