Find HIDDEN supermarket discounts in the ‘world foods’ section – up to 72% off herbs, spices, tinned goods & more

Find HIDDEN supermarket discounts in the ‘world foods’ section – up to 72% off herbs, spices, tinned goods & more

You know the old saying, 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' – well, the same can be applied to navigating the aisles of your local supermarket – in this instance, 'its not what you shop, but where you shop'. We’ve uncovered baby aisle bargains and how you can save by crouching down. Now we’re unearthing secrets in the ‘world foods’ aisle…

MSE Update Mon 9 May 2022: Although we first published this blog a while back, we've updated all the prices below and the general principle still stands – cheaper versions of the same and similar products can be found in different aisles of the same shop.

As the cost of living crisis intensifies, your supermarket shop may be one area you’re finding you have to cut back. With that in mind, you may have overlooked this section of the store as nothing more than a random assortment of American snacks, fizzy drinks and instant noodles. But it can be a treasure trove for bargains, with savings of up to 39% to be had. 

We scoured the shelves of ethnic groceries at four supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – and compared prices to aisles you might usually head down for the same items. Many products such as tinned tomatoes, coconut oil and spices can be found cheaper gram for gram than the same product in different packaging. In some cases, you get a bigger product at a cheaper price, so switching can be a no-brainer.

What we found in the world foods aisle…

Further down this blog we’ve more examples in a comparison table, but here’s a quick illustration of the sort of hidden bargains we’re talking about:

– Natco garam masala (first image below) is £2.60 for 400g (6.5p for 10g) in Sainsbury’s world foods aisle, while in a different aisle, Sainsbury’s own is 85p for 38g (22p for 10g). The big pack’s 70% cheaper per gram.

– KTC chopped tinned tomatoes (second image below) is 35p for 400g in the Sainsbury's world foods aisle, while Sainsbury’s own-brand is 45p for 400g. That's 10p more for the same quantity.

This was the trend across many items we checked at all four supermarkets. In some cases, you initially pay more in world foods but get a bigger product that saves money in the long run. Luckily, most are foods that’ll keep well once opened.

Here are a few more examples we spotted when we last looked on Tue 10 Mar:

Product (supermarket) Product Price
World foods aisle Other aisle¹
Coconut oil (Sainbury's) £2.45 for 500ml (49p/100ml) £3.30 for 300ml (£1.10/100ml)
Ground cumin (Asda) 60p for 100g (6p/10g) 59p for 41g (14.4p/10g)
Red kidney beans (Asda) 45p for 400g (11.25p/100g) 50p for 400g (25p/100g)
Desiccated coconut (Morrisons) £1.35 for 250g (54p/100g) £1.30 for 200g (65p/100g)
Garlic paste (Tesco) £1.10 for 283g (3.89p/10g) £1.25 for 90g (13.89p/10g)
Chickpeas (Tesco) 40p for 400g (10p/100g) 55p for 400g (13.75p/100g)
¹ All products own-brand unless otherwise stated

What’s available will depend on where you live, because, although supermarkets almost always have a world foods section – even in some smaller local/express stores – the individual products cater to local demand. So if you live in a very multicultural area, you’re likely to have a much wider selection to choose from.

How we did our research, and other things to note…

To keep things fair and above board, when comparing prices we ignored special offers – as these come and go – and we always compared the cheapest equivalent we could find, which in most cases was the supermarket’s own-brand. Aldi and Lidl weren’t included as they tend to stock just one version of most products they sell, and don’t usually have a separate area for world foods.

If you’ve allergy concerns, we checked with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and it confirmed all food products sold by UK supermarkets – including the world foods section – have to be clearly labelled with allergen info, and it must be in English (even if there’s a foreign language elsewhere on the packaging), so you shouldn’t need to worry.

Is it worth switching to world foods?

World foods was cheaper for the vast majority of items we looked at. Not always by much, and sometimes it means paying more for a bigger pack that’ll save you in the long run. Yet a few products were slightly more expensive gram for gram, so always check this and the price per 100ml/100g before you buy. See our supermarket guide for more tips and tricks.

Of course, as with any time you switch from one brand to another, it comes down to personal taste. It’s possible in some cases paying more means better quality, but as everything we’ve compared at least looks and smells the same as its pricier counterpart, we reckon it’s worth a try if it saves you money.

You can also save on groceries in other aisles simply by ‘downshifting’ from branded goods to cheaper own-brand equivalents (see MSE’s Downshift Challenge).