The number of shoppers 'downshifting' from expensive brands to cheaper supermarket alternatives has almost tripled over the past year.

Almost three out of four of those sampled now opt for standard supermarket-own labels, up from just a quarter in August 2008, according to research.

MSE investigations have shown that dropping one brand level can save you up to 33% from the price of your typical shop. On a £100 weekly spend, that's a £1,700 annual saving (see the Cheap Supermarket Shopping guide).

Supermarkets tend to have four brand levels, ranked below from cheapest to most expensive:

  • Supermarket value or basics the mega-cheap products in basic packaging.
  • Supermarket-own the standard supermarket brands.
  • Mainstream brands such as Kellogg's or Flora.
  • Supermarket premium brands often the most expensive, eg, Finest and Taste the Difference.

There is often little difference between mainstream brands and supermarket-own produce.

While dropping one brand level on your regular shop can save you 33%, typically, not everyone sticks religiously to that system. Downshifting is about trying a new brand to see if you like it.

Even if you only eventually drop one level on half of your shop, in the long-run, you'll save just under 17%, which is £850 on a £100-a-week shop.

It's not just downshifting which is on the rise. The research from price comparison site uSwitch.com also reveals 74% regularly use money-off coupons, compared with only 26% last year.

Archna Luthra, MoneySavingExpert.com consumer products analyst, says: "As well as downshifting to save hundreds, shoppers should snap up discounts, codes and vouchers. New online customers can currently get £10 off at Tesco.com or 15% off Ocado."

Further reading/Key links

Cheap shopping: www.moneysavingexpert.com/supermarketshopping

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Millions downshifting