Newest grocery shopping survey is food for thought

The economics ministry reported again Thursday on a survey of food stores that showed wide variations in prices.

But the ministry also reported that three entrepreneurs are developing an application called  Ahorre Más,”Save more,” that will give shoppers information on food prices in various supermarkets in real time. The application, a winner of a  Gobierno Digital competition, still is in development. The application will do basically what the ministry surveyors did: Determine the prices in 42 chain and independent groceries.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio had some additional goals with the survey that was conducted from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7.  Officials wanted to see how well stores were complying with a new rule that said they had to report a unit price for each product. The ministry said that 95 percent of the stores were in compliance.

The survey itself compared individual prices but also figured what a family averaging 3.5 persons would pay purchasing the same monthly shopping of 53 items in different stores. The survey was geared to basic purchase of food and some personal care items, such as diapers. The checkout price ranged from 93,147 to 126,745 colons, about $186 to $253.50. The ministry computed the difference to be 33,598 colons or about $67.

Automercado at Plaza del Sol in Curridabat had the highest prices. The lowest was at Palí in El Roble, said the ministry. Second highest was Automercado in Tres Ríos followed by Muños and Nanne in San Pedro, Super Facil Express in San José and Mas x Meno in Santo Domingo de Heredia. The products checked were both pre-packed and fresh.

A month’s groceries cost the lowest in the province of Puntarenas while San José had the highest prices.

As is usual in these surveys, researchers found wide variations among identical products and similar products. Some of the differences, such as 132 percent difference in a bottle of meat sauce, suggested that one product might have been marked incorrectly. For example, a pack of 2-percent milk cost 330 colons at one store and 610 colons at the store with the highest price. That is a difference of some 280 colons or 85 percent, said the ministry. But 550 colons to about 600 is the usual price for this product.

Still prices on the same and similar items ranged up to 500 percent. That difference was on a Gillette double-bladed men’s razor and one made or imported by the Mexican firm called Dorusa de México S.A.. Smoked sausage differed by 211 percent between Zurquí brand at 710 colons in Super Moline in San Ramón and Zaragoza at a number of stores at 2,210 colons.

The survey also points out that a working class family will be paying about half of an average monthly salary for basic food products. The full survey can be found on the ministry Web site.

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