Shopper marketing blog

Moaning March – What shoppers' reviews are saying?

Posted by Paul on Apr 13, 2023 7:55:40 AM
Find me on:

When grocery shoppers don't get what they want, they complain. When they complain online, they write 1-star reviews. In March, they wrote over 6,500 new 1-star reviews across Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Waitrose, and Ocado.

As the leader in ratings and reviews reporting and understanding, we wanted to know what shoppers had to say and what issues were topical. So, we delved deep into the data to come up with some fresh insights and observations.


All the Data

We regularly collect the full text of ratings and reviews from the Top 6 online grocery retailers in the UK. According to Kantar they make up 71.1% of all grocery sales with an even higher share of online groceries as the discounters Aldi and Lidl sell very little online.

From the reviews we collected, we have selected the Top 3 visible reviews as these are particularly important to shoppers (see why all brand owners should be paying close attention to the Top 3 reviews of their products). There are over 65,000 unique Top 3 1-Star reviews of which around 10% were left in March. These are the ones we will focus on here.

If you would like insights, reporting or raw data including all the Top 3 reviews, exception reporting and brand comparisons please contact our sales team here.

From this selected data set of the latest 1-Star reviews, our insights team have dug around looking for more interesting insights and observations.

We are often asked if individual reviews matter. Based on independent research, our answer is "Yes". The latest reviews you have, ie the “Top 3” visible reviews, can make a significant impact on sales (see our blog post on this). Consider your own behaviour when looking at reviews for a product. You may see that it has 50 reviews with a 4.5-star rating, which seems good. However, you may read the latest few reviews to get a feel for how credible they are. If they are terrible, how likely are you to read more reviews or choose another product?
If you read this review, we think you might choose something else:

Simply awful. Absolutely disgusting It has no flavour at all dries out your mouth and leaves you pulling funny faces because it's that bitter. To confirm it wasn't just me my wife also tried a piece and pulled the same faces I did. There's only one suitable place for this vile product and that's in the bin. Avoid at all costs it's not nice and not pleasurable. The dirt I used to eat in the garden as a child had more taste than this.


To avoid the blushes of this brand we won’t name them here, but if you want to know if it is and what your 1-Star reviews say, do get in touch.

What were they unhappy about?

It's not surprising that own-label products dominate the feedback, accounting for 48.7% of it. Later on, we'll focus on branded manufacturers to provide the most interesting insights. But for completeness, here are the Top 10 categories with 1-Star reviews across all manufacturers.

CheckoutSmart Moaning March Categories

Chilled ready meals led the way with the worst reviews, with 2/3 criticising the taste in one way or another.

CheckoutSmart Moaning March Companies

If we look at manufacturing companies, we can see how much Own Label dominates. Below that, three companies that are leaders in Health & Beauty products occupy positions 2-4, with another big player, Procter & Gamble, in 8th. Does this say something about this category?

This pattern is reflected in the brands themselves, but there are some food brands, such as Daylesford (who seem to have had a particularly bad month), Birds Eye, Heinz, Quorn, Cauldron, and Natoora (Ocado's fresh fruit and veg brand), that also feature.

CheckoutSmart Moaning March Brand

Looking even deeper, at what products are top of the list, there are 3 that stand out over the month. Two from Cauldron and one from Jus-Rol. For these the feedback has been particularly strong.

CheckoutSmart Moaning March Products

It looks like Cauldron has changed their recipe (which does often cause complaints) but by going vegan from vegetarian they have lost a lot of fans.

Cauldron may have lost a lot of fans by changing their recipe to vegan from vegetarian, which often causes complaints. There were 11 scathing reviews on the Cauldron Cumberland Vegan Sausages. NPD pre-launch reviews and even large-scale sampling and feedback from shoppers could have helped to avoid this response.

The other product that we should talk about is the Jus-Rol. They may have had a quality issue based on the feedback (of course we don’t know, and this may just be normal). Four of the reviews mentioned black spots on the product across two retailers. Reviews alerting could have brought this to their attention immediately.

What else did they talk about?

In these times of household budget challenges, price concerns are also a part of the review conversation with nearly 20% of the reviews mentioning them. The top companies that feature in price concerns are:

CheckoutSmart Moaning March Company price

There is a wide range of descriptions and topics covered. The most common expressed description is around "disappointment," which does not sound too bad, but there are plenty of stronger ones used regularly, including "awful," "disgusting," "vile," and "rancid".

CheckoutSmart Moaning March Key words

The same reviews

Some companies seem to be posting the same 1-star review multiple times. These two reviews appeared 20 times in March across multiple varieties of the same products and across multiple retailers.

Remains Soft and easily scraped. This is really not worth buying. Remains soft on the nails and never seems to dry. Thick in texture too which adds to the problem and scapes so easily. Rimmels 60 second polish is much better. I would not buy this again.

Gel Hahahahahaaha Absolutely awful quality. Does not last. Will not be buying more

They are also for the same company, who features heavily. It would appear that Coty have either seriously upset a customer who is out to post negative reviews or they are using a reviews syndicator to circulate the same poor reviews across lots of variants of the same product. Either way, I am sure this is something they would want to know and take action on.


There are lots of new 1-Star reviews in March and every month. We know they can significantly impact sales. The only way to keep on top of them across all retailers is to use a service to check them and report exceptions. Taking action to redress the issues internally first, then to redress what is a false impression with new reviews. See where Kellogg did this and how they achieved a 32% uplift as a result.

Managing all your reviews is a service you can outsource to CheckoutSmart, whether it is the data provision, reporting, insights creation or ratings and reviews delivery we cover it all. And we make sure each variety gets the SKU-level reviews it deserves, not just the same (bad) review across the lot.

Talk to us

We can help you see and react to poor reviews. Whether you want all the data to analyse and action or you want a full "Always On" service from us where you effectively outsource everything, then we have you covered. 

Get your own report

If you would like your own report showing the Top 3 reviews for your category including the 1-Star reviews from March, then just complete the form here:



Topics: Online, Grocery, Rating and Reviews, Shopper Insights, digital shelf

Digital Shopper Marketing


CheckoutSmart is a leading digital shopper marketing agency delivering fast, flexible campaigns against all your goals in any retailer or just one:

  • Actively manage your shopper reputation in all online retailers
  • Create instant shopper action in any retailer, on any sku in the way you want
  • Start a genuine dialogue with shoppers about your products
  • Launch more successful NPD faster and use immediate feedback to improve your mix
  • Excite shoppers with easy to execute, effective virtual on-pack activities
  • Upgrade your understanding of the retail execution within all retailers
  • UK, Europe, US and beyond

Talk to us here: CONTACT US