Find HIDDEN supermarket discounts in the ‘world foods’ section – up to 80% off herbs, spices, sauces & more

If you know where to look, you can often bag grocery items cheaper somewhere else in the same supermarket. We’ve already uncovered baby aisle bargains, how to avoid rip-offs in the free-from section and how you can save by crouching down. Now we’re unearthing secrets in the ‘world foods’ aisle…

We’ve been digging through the shelves of ethnic groceries at four supermarkets – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – and found cooking sauces, dried herbs, spices and more up to 80% cheaper gram for gram than essentially the same product, in different packaging, in a different aisle of the same shop. In some cases, you get a bigger product at a cheaper price, so switching can be a no-brainer.

Plus, the world foods aisle’s mostly branded goods. Okay, in the UK we might not know them as well as Uncle Ben’s or Dolmio, but, for example, we spotted Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce among the the world foods – a leading brand from Hong Kong, so arguably a more authentic product – cheaper than own-brand equivalents.

MSE Update Tue 13 Feb 2018: Although we first published this blog in 2017, so the prices in the table may now be inaccurate, the general principle of cheaper versions of the same product in different aisles still stands. 

What we found in the world foods aisle…

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

– Rajah ginger (left image below) is 60p for 85g in Asda’s world foods aisle, while in a different aisle, Asda’s own is 79p for 28g. The big pack’s 75% cheaper per gram.

– Coco Fresh coconut milk (right image) is 75p for 400g in the Tesco world foods aisle, while Tesco’s own-brand is £1.49. Double the price for the same amount.

World foods aisle bargains: Asda ground ginger, Tesco coconut milk.

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.

In the table below, 15 items we found were better value in the world foods aisle:

Product (and shop where we saw it)
World foods aisle Other aisle¹
Ground coriander (Morrisons) £1.37 for 400g (34p per 100g) 80p for 36g (£2.22 per 100g)
Fish sauce (Morrisons) £1.50 for 725ml (21p per 100ml) £1.18 for 100ml
Ground ginger (Asda) 60p for 85g (71p per 100g) 79p for 28g (£2.82 per 100g)
Soy sauce (Asda) £1.29 for 500ml (26p per 100ml) £1.39 for 150ml of Amoy (93p per 100ml)
Oyster sauce (Tesco) £1.90 for 510ml (37p per 100ml) £1.89 for 150ml (£1.26 per 100ml)
Bay leaves (Sainsbury’s) £1.10 for 10g (11p per 1g) £1 for 3g (33p per 1g)
Desiccated coconut (Tesco) £1 for 200g £1.99 for 200g of Whitworth’s
Coconut milk (Tesco) 75p for 400g £1.49 for 400g
Chilli powder (Asda) £1.99 for 400g (50p per 100g) 97p for 100g
Jamaican jerk seasoning (Tesco) 95p for 100g 90p for 50g (£1.80 per 100g)
Paprika (Tesco) £1.10 for 100g 85p for 42g (£2.02 per 100g)
Sunflower seeds (Morrisons) £1.17 for 250g (47p per 100g) 85p for 100g
Whole peppercorns (Sainsbury’s) £1.40 for 100g £2.50 for 100g
Chickpeas in water (Sainsbury’s) 45p for 400g 55p for 400g
Sweet chilli sauce (Sainsbury’s) £2.30 for 700ml (33p per 100ml) £2.30 for 600ml (38p per 100ml)
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 a few 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 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).

This is just one of the ‘life hacks’ we feature on the site…

See our 80+ MoneySaving Life Hacks guide for lots more – including an app which lets you eat neighbours’ food for free, how to turn your phone into a free sat nav and a tool to check if hackers have stolen your info.