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Aldi has been rated the top supermarket store for 2021 after wowing shoppers with its value for money, while Sainsbury’s is best for online.
It’s been a tumultuous year for supermarkets, with stockpiling, staff absences and social distancing. But the pandemic has also underlined how important our supermarkets are.
Shoppers in the annual Which? supermarket survey gave Aldi an unrivalled five stars for value while, for the first time ever, Sainsbury’s came out top for shopping online.
Read on to find out how all the supermarkets compared and what shoppers loved – and hated – about each one.
Supermarkets survey: the results
We surveyed 3,037 members of the public about their favourite supermarkets, quizzing them on a range of factors from store appearance and quality of produce to value for money.
You can see some of the topline results in the tables below. For the full star ratings, including which stores are best for queue lengths and customer service, and which supermarkets have the best availability of online delivery slots, see our supermarkets compared guide.
In-store supermarket results
|Supermarket and sample size||Store appearance||Quality of produce||Value for money||Customer score|
|Aldi (706)||2 stars||3 stars||5 stars||73%|
|Marks & Spencer (524)||5 stars||5 stars||2 stars||71%|
|Lidl (691)||2 stars||3 stars||4 stars||67%|
|Tesco (820)||4 stars||3 stars||3 stars||67%|
|Waitrose (349)||5 stars||5 stars||2 stars||67%|
|Sainsbury’s (703)||4 stars||4 stars||2 stars||66%|
|Morrisons (694)||4 stars||3 stars||3 stars||65%|
|Iceland (509)||2 stars||2 stars||3 stars||64%|
|Asda (697)||3 stars||2 stars||2 stars||62%|
|Co-op (590)||2 stars||2 stars||1 star||59%|
Online supermarket results
|Supermarket and sample size||Choice of substitute items||Availability of delivery slots||Value for money||Customer score|
|Sainsbury’s (342) – Which? Recommended Provider||3 stars||4 stars||3 stars||71%|
|Amazon Fresh (60)||4 stars||4 stars||4 stars||69%|
|Iceland (234)||3 stars||4 stars||4 stars||69%|
|Tesco (524)||4 stars||3 stars||4 stars||68%|
|Morrisons (238)||3 stars||3 stars||3 stars||64%|
|Ocado (159)||3 stars||2 stars||2 stars||64%|
|Waitrose (135)||3 stars||2 stars||2 stars||64%|
|Asda (363)||3 stars||3 stars||3 stars||63%|
Results based on an online survey of 3,037 members of the public in October 2020. Customer scores based on satisfaction with the brand and likelihood to recommend it. Star ratings out of five.
- Find out more: best and worst supermarkets of 2021
About the supermarkets that came top
Discounter Aldi was top of the table for shopping in store, while Sainsbury’s made top place for shopping online. But what is it about these two supermarkets that sets them apart from the rest?
Why do shoppers love Aldi?
Aldi scored an impressive five stars for value for money – a key factor for shoppers, who told us that price is the most important factor when choosing a supermarket to shop at in person.
However, the discounter doesn’t score very well on any other measure. Shoppers were particularly unimpressed with the layout and appearance of its stores and its range of stock.
This wasn’t a problem for everyone, though. One happy customer said: ‘Excellent. Local and convenient, stock range is limited but I love this as you’re not spending loads of time making decisions on what brand to buy.’
Aldi dipped its toes into the world of online this year by offering deliveries via Deliveroo, launching click-and-collect at some locations and selling pre-filled grocery boxes during the height of the first lockdown. But because it doesn’t yet offer full online grocery shopping, it only features in our in-store table.
You can find out where your nearest store is at Aldi.co.uk.
What does Sainsbury’s do so well?
Sainsbury’s got the highest score in our online supermarkets table this year, the first time it has achieved this. It doesn’t get five stars for any measure – none of the online supermarkets do – but it does fairly well across the board.
Shoppers were happy with its stock availability (which was voted the most important factor in choosing an online supermarket, alongside price), product range, quality, freshness and the service of its drivers – but it scored just three stars for value for money.
One online shopper said: ‘Apart from the first few weeks [of the pandemic] when people were panic-buying, Sainsbury’s usually has everything I order. I have been shielding, so very grateful for its online shopping.’
As well as scoring highly in our survey, Sainsbury’s also does well on a range of behind-the-scenes measures such as food hygiene and nutritional labelling – all of which contributed to our decision to name Sainsbury’s the only Which? Recommended Provider this year for its online service.
You can shop online at Sainsburys.co.uk.
Which supermarkets are the worst performers?
New entrant the Co-op came bottom of the table for shopping in store, while Asda came last for shopping online. Here’s why shoppers rate them so poorly.
What’s wrong with the Co-op?
New entrant the Co-op plummets straight to the bottom of our in-store supermarkets table. Shoppers gave it pitiful one-star ratings for value for money and range of stock.
However, in many ways the Co-op follows more of a convenience-store business model than some of the bigger supermarket chains, and this could explain some of these results. For example, smaller stores are, by definition, likely to have a more limited range and may also have higher overheads. This will be the case for some of the other supermarkets in our survey too, though.
One shopper told us: ‘It is not the cheapest place to shop, and due to a fairly small store size the amount of products is more limited.’
While the Co-op doesn’t offer a full online delivery service, it does deliver from some stores directly or via Deliveroo.
- Find out more: how much more do you pay at convenience stores?
Why don’t shoppers rate Asda?
Last year’s worst performer Asda remains bottom of the table for online shopping and is second-to-last for in-store shopping. It scores two stars in store for the quality of its products and also, perhaps surprisingly, for value for money.
Despite it often being named the cheapest big-four supermarket in our monthly supermarket price comparison, shoppers obviously know that low prices don’t spell good value unless the quality is there too.
A quarter of Asda shoppers found that an item they wanted in their most recent online order wasn’t available, making it the worst supermarket on this frustrating measure. It’s also the worst for substitutions: across all the supermarkets, 35% of shoppers received substitute items in their last order, but at Asda it was 43%.
One unhappy online shopper complained: ‘Higher prices, terrible and stupid substitutions, lack of stock.’
Supermarket frustrations: what gets your goat?
The COVID-19 pandemic has, inevitably, caused shoppers a lot of frustration. We asked people what they found most annoying about shopping in store and online.
Biggest frustrations when shopping in store*
- Other shoppers not social distancing (24%)
- Not enough staffed checkouts (16%)
- Long queues at the checkout (15%)
- Obstructions in the aisles (11%)
- Items on offer were out of stock (10%)
Biggest frustrations when shopping online*
- An item I wanted was not available (21%)
- Items I chose were substituted (18%)
- I couldn’t get a convenient delivery slot (13%)
- Perishable goods were not fresh (12%)
- Too many plastic bags used in delivery (10%)
Find out more: supermarkets coronavirus latest
*Results based on an online survey of 3,037 members of the public in October 2020. Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, so percentages total more than 100%.