Dog chews instead of chicken breasts? Which? reveals the wackiest supermarket substitutions

From receiving dog chews instead of chicken breasts and strawberries instead of bin bags, Which? reveals the strangest substitutions received by shoppers and the supermarkets most likely to put a replacement in an order.

In a recent survey, the consumer champion gathered information on over 1,200 online supermarket experiences from the general public. Which? found that overall, almost half of these experiences (47%) involved receiving a replacement item in their shop. Customers were also asked what had been the weirdest substitution they had received over the last 12 months.

Six out of ten Asda customers (62%) told Which? they had received a substitution in their most recent shop, with one customer receiving dog chews instead of chicken breasts. Another bewildered shopper received a pack of toilet rolls instead of bread rolls.

Six in ten Aldi customers (59%) reported that they had received substitutions in their most recent shop. One shopper told Which? that they had been given a bag of onions instead of a loaf of bread. 

Half of customers who had ordered online at Sainsbury’s (52%) told Which? they had received a substitution in their most recent shop. One shopper reported ordering fruit but instead received shoe polish. Another ordered BBQ flavoured crisps and received a packet of bacon.

A similar proportion of shoppers at Morrisons (51%) reported getting substituted items in their most recent shop. One shopper told Which? that they received meat sausages instead of veggie burgers, and another received a toothbrush instead of apples. 

More than four in 10 Tesco shoppers (44%) reported getting substitutions in their most recent shopping order, with one customer complaining to Which? that they had received an Easter egg despite ordering hot dog rolls. Another ordered a roll of tinfoil which was swapped out for a chocolate santa.

The same proportion of Amazon Fresh shoppers (44%) reported substitutions, including one baffled shopper who received Sellotape instead of toilet roll.

Which? found that just over a third of Iceland customers (35%) and Ocado customers (34%) received a substitution in their most recent shop. One Iceland shopper told Which? that they received strawberries instead of bin bags.

A quarter of Waitrose customers (24%) reported substitutions in their most recent shop. One customer told Which? that their bottle of wine had been replaced by an alcohol-free bottle. 

Customers with special dietary requirements fared badly when it came to getting substitutions, across many of the supermarkets included in the study. Shoppers complained about getting meat or dairy instead of vegetarian or vegan alternatives. One customer said they were sent non-halal meat despite ordering halal. 

The same was true for customers with food intolerances. One shopper, whose partner has coeliac disease, had their gluten-free product substituted with a product containing wheat. 

In the survey, each supermarket was scored based on their choice of substitution items. Waitrose fared best, receiving four stars. Aldi, Amazon Fresh, Sainsbury’s and Tesco scored three stars, while Asda, Iceland and Morrisons scored just two. 

Reena Sewraz, Which? Retail Editor, said:

“Product substitutions can be incredibly frustrating, especially if the key ingredient for your dinner is missing. Our research has shown that some replacements can also be downright ridiculous.

“You have the right to reject substitutions at the point of delivery, or you could opt out of receiving substitutions altogether. If you do end up with a substitution that you don’t want, always contact the supermarket and ask for a refund.”




Notes to editors:

  • In October 2022, Which? surveyed 3,007 members of the UK general public from whom we gathered information on 1,260 supermarket shopping experiences for online orders. The survey was conducted online by Deltapoll.
  • In our survey, we asked respondents to rate online supermarkets on a number of areas, including choice of substitute items. Each supermarket received star ratings, ranging from one to five, on each of those areas. Star ratings are calculated independently of each other.


About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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