The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Price of flour in the UK

404's picture

Price of flour in the UK

Noticed today that the Strong whiteflour in tescos seemed really cheap at 48p for 1.5 KG.  ( call it ~1 $ per 3 pound bag)

Much cheaper than anyof the other flours, their own strong brown flout was almost double the price and more around what I am used to paying..

I checked on line and the trend is the same with the other supermarkets. I am sure I normally pay around a 100p per 1.5 Kg bag. 

Is that cheap or have I just got used to paying over the odds. ( If I buy the fancy stoneground stuff in Waterose it's almost £2.50 !)

Why would white flour cost so much less than brown?



trudy's picture

I buy flour here in the uk too, don't know the answer to your question  for definate but it could be due to scales of economy in production, that is more people use white flour for every day use which means they pump out more to meet demand which means they sell it cheaper. I have also noticed here the perverse way of pricing up 'natural' products at a premium because if we realy want it we will pay more!! Have you tried the Kamut flour in waitrose its lovely!!! Asda sell Allinsons strong bread flour in v large bags and it equals 70p per kilo. T xx

dougal's picture

Why would white flour cost so much less than brown?

Apart from marketing departments thinking either "how much can we get for this stuff?" or "will selling this item super-cheap bring in the punters?" (the reasons behind most supermarket pricing) there are factual reasons that white flour costs the supermarket less. And if it costs them less to buy and stock, then they can sell it for less and still make the same profit.


Three of those reasons are: roller milling, shelf life and sales volume.


"Industrial-scale" milling uses many passes through high speed steel rollers, each rolling crushing the grain a little more as the space between the rollers gets narrower. One incidental result of this process is that at each stage the ground 'flour' is split off. Roller milling therefore cleanly separates the bran, wheatgerm and various grades of white flour - at zero additional cost - its an essential part of the process.

To produce a 'brown' or wholemeal flour, some (or for wholemeal, all) of the other stuff has to be blended back. That means extra cost, so you should expect a higher price.

Stone grinding is a much more expensive, much smaller-scale process.

So stoneground flour is going to start off more expensive than roller milled.

But stone grinding doesn't separate the components. What goes in, comes out together. And it is a cooler process, so it doesn't cook or damage the nutrient oils in the wheatgerm to as great an extent as high speed roller milling. So stoneground should have better flavour and be nutritionally better - thereby justifying its higher cost to enough buyers for it to be worthwhile for a supermarket to bother stocking it.

Roller milling is a fantastically effective way of producing white flour (and collecting the other components for other uses - like cattle food) - which is why the process was developed and is used industrially all round the world.


OK, so apart from the milling...

Those wheatgerm oils in the wholemeal flour have a fairly short shelf life compared to white flour. They go rancid, and then smell and taste bad. So don't store wholemeal flour (or wheatgerm) for months. And store it cool (but dry), definitely not in a warm place!

I think the supermarkets sell lots more white flour than wholemeal.

So white is the faster-moving product that anyway has a longer shelf life, and wholemeal sells more slowly but goes off quicker. Which is going to be easier (ie cheaper) for the supermarket to stock and sell?


Quite apart from any marketing considerations, and strange as it might seem at first, there really are increased costs in producing and selling non-white flours...

suave's picture

As fas as I understand, here in the US, to be called stone-ground the flour should go through at least one round of stone grinding, so cracking the grain on the stone and then feeding it into a roller mill is a perfectly legal way of producing stone-ground flour.


404's picture

That all makes sense, thanks for the explanation. Excelent informative posts.

Marketing alone didn't really convince me as I can't see strong flour as being the sort of thing that would pull people in en mass, cheap Stella maybe but not a 50p bag of bread flour.

It still seems almost too cheap though, it's half the cost of  buying the big bags of allinsons in Asda which you would have thought would be one of the cheapest.

I just mixed up a sourdough  loaf using it so I'll post back in a couple of days with the results.

 While I haven't see the Kamut flour in Waitrose I have bought some of the Bacheldre Watermill stoneground flour ( which is more like £2.50 for a 1.5 Kg bag)

The only one I've tried so far is the Oak Smoked strong malted blend flour. I made a loaf half and half with a normal stoneground wholemeal and it made a nice enough loaf. Even at 50% the oak flavor was very strong so I might try 25% next time so it is less overpowering.  I have the unoaked malted blend still to try.



ehanner's picture

404, or anyone who knows, could you tell us a little about the "Oak Smoked Flour" you refer to? I don't think that is a product I have ever heard about in the US. What is the purpose or where does it get used? Interesting idea.


dougal's picture

Although I've seen the (expensive) product on the shelves, I've not tried it yet. (But I know I ought to!)


Here's what the mill has to say: " Matt Scott, co-owner and founder of Bacheldre Watermill, comments, “The oak chippings infuse the specially malted wheat flakes with a delicious smokiness, the flavours work really well. The slow cold smoking process infuses a sweet wood-smoked aroma and taste that is reminiscent of bread being baked in a wood fired oven. The bread baked is delicious and is great just with butter, it also makes an excellent smoky pizza base”

More on their website (scroll down)