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Thursday 2 October 2014

French shoppers fill their trolleys for half of what we pay here

Published 29/06/2014 | 02:30

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Ooh La La: Strawberries with cream and a little French toast

French strawberries don't taste much different than Irish ones – yet, you'll pay more than twice the price for strawberries here as you will in France. The same can be said for chocolate, fizzy water and beer. Not to mention wine.

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You can pick up six bottles of wine in France for the price you'll pay for one in Ireland.

These are some of the findings of an investigation by the Sunday Independent where we compared the prices in the popular French supermarket, Super U, to those charged by the main Irish supermarkets. Here's a round-up of some of the biggest price differences.

Mineral water

Four times more expensive

In France, you can buy eight 1.5 litre bottles of Vittel mineral water for €3.95. That works out at 33c a litre.

Last week, Tesco charged €4.99 for six 1.5 litre bottles of Evian – about 55c a litre. Under a recent promotion run by Dunnes Stores, the supermarket charged €3.74 for 12 500ml bottles of Kerry Spring. The normal price of that 12-pack is €7.49. So you'll normally pay as much as €1.25 a litre for Kerry Spring mineral water in Dunnes – four times the price you'll pay for branded mineral water in France.

Chocolate

More than twice as expensive

You'll pay €3.49 for a 600g pack of Twix twin bars in France. In Ireland, you'll pay almost the same price for a pack that's a third the size.

Most Irish supermarkets don't sell 600g packs of Twix twin bars. One of the biggest packs this paper could find in Tesco was its 200g pack – which cost €2.75. So in Tesco, the price of three 200g packs of Twix twin bars – the equivalent in weight of the 600g pack sold in Super U – comes to €8.25.

Strawberries

Twice as expensive

This paper bought a 500g punnet of strawberries for €2.95 in Super U. In SuperValu, you'll pay €3.29 for a punnet that's half the size. Dunnes Stores charges €2.69 for 250g of strawberries. So a kilo of strawberries could cost you €5.90 in a French supermarket – but as much as €13.20 in an Irish one.

You can buy loose bananas for as little as 88c a kilo in France. In Tesco and SuperValu, you'll usually pay €1.25 a kilo. Super U charges 99c a kilo for loose onions – Dunnes charges €1.49 a kilo.

Ham

About twice as costly

At first glance, slices of ham seem more expensive in France than in Ireland. Eight slices of 'Jambon de Paris' ham cost €3.25 in Super U. In Dunnes, you'll pay €3.50 for 10 slices of ham if you buy a Galtee two-pack.

The weight, however, is the giveaway. The eight-slice pack in France weighs 360g; the 10-slice pack in Ireland weighs 180g. So you're getting twice as much ham for almost the same price in France as you do in Ireland.

Weetabix

Almost twice as expensive

In Ireland, you can expect to pay about €3.50 for a 430g box of Weetabix. You'll pay €1.94 for the same box in Super U.

Soya yoghurts

Up to 35per cent more expensive

Anyone who is or who has children who are allergic to dairy knows how expensive it is to stock up on soya yoghurts in Ireland. You'll usually pay €1.95 for a four-pack of Alpro soya yoghurts in an Irish supermarket. Super U charges €1.45 for a four-pack of red fruit Sojasun soya yoghurts.

Ice-creams:

25 per cent more expensive

A six-pack of white Magnum ice-creams costs €3.99 in Super U. Most Irish supermarkets sell white Magnums in boxes of three.

Under a promotion run by Dunnes Stores last week, two three-pack boxes of white Magnums cost €5 – that's 25 per cent more expensive than the equivalent number of Magnums in France and you'll pay more when the ice-creams are not on promotion.

Alcohol

More than twice as expensive

You'll typically pay €4.19 for a six-pack of 250ml bottles of Carlsberg in Super U. Tesco charges €7 for six 275ml bottles of Carlsberg. The bottles sold in Ireland are slightly larger than in France – but not enough to make them almost 70 per cent more expensive.

Under a Super U promotion earlier this month, a 14-pack of 250ml Heineken bottles cost €5.69. That works out at about €1.62 a litre. Under a Tesco promotion, you'll pay €15 for a 12-pack of 330ml Heineken bottles. That works out at about €3.78 a litre – more than twice the French price.

Wine is much cheaper in France than it is in Ireland, and more so if you get it on promotion. Under a Super U special offer at the start of June, six bottles of Cotes du Rhones (Bastide de Beauvert 2013) wine were priced at €14.70 – down from the normal price of €29.40. That's about €2.45 a bottle. Under another Super U promotion, six bottles of Menetou-Salon (Domaine des Coteaux 2012) wine cost about €40.

If buying individually, you can pick up a nice bottle of wine for around €7 in France – in Ireland, you'll struggle to do so for less than €15. In Ireland, you can expect to pay about €21 for a bottle of white Sancerre; in France, you could pick one up for €9.

Why the massive differences?

Clearly high taxes push up the price of alcohol in Ireland. Transportation costs and poor economies of scale are behind some of the high grocery and alcohol prices in this country, according to the independent economist, Jim Power. "As an island nation, transportation costs come into play – we import a lot of food and wine," said Power.

Retail Ireland, which represents major Irish supermarkets, estimates that the cost of doing business in Ireland is about 15 per cent higher than "many other markets".

"Labour costs, utility bills, professional services and so on remain out of line with other countries," said Stephen Lynam, director of Retail Ireland, which represents major Irish supermarkets. "Of course, manufacturers and suppliers also influence prices as it is from them that retailers purchase goods."

However, supermarket mark-ups are also at play, according to food economist, Ciaran Fitzgerald. "In Ireland, a supermarket could buy something for €1 and sell it for €3," said Fitzgerald. "There are figures which suggest that the mark-ups being added on by Irish supermarkets are much higher than what's been added on by supermarkets in other countries."

Sunday Indo Business

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