/ Food & Drink, Shopping

A kilo of strawberries – or would you prefer a pound?

Punnets of strawberries

Asda’s experimenting with imperial measurements by selling strawberries by the pound. Is this something you’d like to see rolled out, or are weight measurements an entirely outdated concept when buying fruit and veg?

If you’ve been shopping in Asda in the past week you may have noticed something strange – the supermarket giant has started selling its strawberries in 1lb punnets.

If that sounds a little like a blast from the past, that’s because it is – this is the first time the shop’s used imperial measurements in over 10 years. The plan is to see if there’s enough shopper demand for the old system – and if so, it could be rolled out to other fruit and veg.

Having grown up with metric measurements, being presented with food weighed by the pound isn’t going to make my life any easier. A pound of sugar is about all I have to draw upon as a comparison tool, which isn’t going to help me when I want to buy a couple of apples or a bunch of grapes.

Is buying by weight going out of fashion?

I’d even take it a step further and say there’s a whole generation of us who don’t pay attention to weights at all when shopping. Most fruit and veg is pre-packed in supermarkets nowadays so we don’t have a clue what it weights.

Take many people to a market and they wouldn’t have a clue what their punnet of strawberries or shrink-wrapped broccoli equates to, grams or ounces. I tend to ask for ‘eight carrots’, ‘four onions’ or ‘a few handfuls of potatoes’ when I’m at my local farmer’s market – it works for me.

But, if Asda’s research is anything to go by, there’s plenty of demand to bring back the old system. It found that 70% of its shoppers were confused by metric and would prefer products to be labelled in pounds. And 20% even said the confusion was taking them longer to shop.

Metric devotees needn’t worry though – all packs are required to display metric weights by law, with imperial an optional extra. But, with so many confusing logos, lists and schemes already competing for space on our food labels is there really room for two different weight measurements as well?

Comments
Emily says:
6 June 2011

I’d definitely prefer a kilo of strawberries to a pound, as you’d get about twice as much! 🙂

Seriously though, I have no mental concept of how much a pound is – though I’m completely fine with kilos. That’s likely because I’m from Australia and in my 30s, so metric is all I’ve ever known!

Emily – I sympathise entirely with your point, but for the exact same reason I’d prefer a Pound. I’m only just 40 and was educated entirely in metric all through school from age 5, but until the late 80’s / early 90’s it was still UNcommon to find foodstuffs and medical things expressed in metric in the UK, so I have no concept whatever of what a kilo of strawberries looks or feels like, but I know exactly what a pound is.

For what it’s worth I think we have the whole metric / imperial problem in the UK simply because the government decided NOT to go metric in every aspect of life back in the early 70’s and then in recent years have tried to “finish the job” thus creating the same havoc we had in 1974 all over again.

michduncg says:
15 June 2011

Dave D

You are right to say that the Government in the 70s didn’t have the courage of its convictions. After recommendations from 1899 onwards that Britain should go metric, Britain decided in 1965 to accept the advice from the CBI to go metric in the interest of British industry. I was born in 1967, and have never been taught anything but metric. I have a great knowledge of imperial, that I have read myself but absolutely refuse to use it. Its rubbish, and certainly not something we need to burden our kids with. Yeah, an inch may be a nice size, but what happens when you want something smaller – try teaching kids today about eights or sixteenths!

As for visualising metric meaurements – well pretty much 1 Litre of any water like liquid is going to weigh a kilo, as is a bag of sugar. simples.

I am confused about your comments regarding metric in medicine not happening til the 1980s. I was on medication throughout the 70s and know that the doseage was 50mg from 1972 to 1980. I also clearly remember all medicine spoons being clearly marked 5ml.

At the end of the day, we were meant to go metric with the rest of the Commonwealth in the 1970s. They achieved it, we didn’t. Our future lies in international co-operation like we see in Airbus, BMW-Mini, Nissan, Honda etc. We need a metric conversant workforce and its a real waste of time to even get them bogged in Imperial twaddle.

No thanks. Tesco will manage to show the price per pound as higher than the price per kilo.

But that’s because Tesco are profiteering unmentionables, rather than because either weight measurement is inferior or superior ……….

pickle says:
7 June 2011

Being an oldie, I prefer the pound.In fact it makes little difference – you can see how much you are getting and for a single oerson a kilo of strawberries is too much to eat in one go – probably could manage a pound….
Which raises another point – single persons are faced with buying a lot of food in such large packs that they can eat only a pert and the rest goes to waste – we need smaller packs for single persons.

Absolutely agree PIckle, but my solution is not smaller packs for individuals but to say that we should have the option to buy the weight we want, weighed out at the point of sale, like we always used to in proper shops. This would also have the huge benefit of reducing packaging and waste which would mean that prices could be reduced (or held for longer) as the packaging won’t have to be bought by the suppliers / retailers.

Win all round!

I think item weights should be in both pounds and kilos.
Older people happier with the old imperial system would feel comfortable while younger metric thinkers won’t be inconvenienced.
But however we do it we do need a weight so we can compare this six apples with that six apples to be sure we’re getting fair value.

michduncg says:
15 June 2011

You seem to forget that the ‘older people’ of today, were 36 years younger when we went metric in 1975. They have had 36 years to adapt. There is absolutely no excuse why we need to drag this mess out any longer. A British Government lead the move to go metric in 1975 in the best interest of the country. Dual labelling makes the information difficult to read at a glance, and running two measurements system is a solution only Heath-Robinson would welcome.

John says:
8 June 2011

Most of us are used to Metric by now. Let’s stick with it and stick with the rest of Europe.
This action by Asda increases consumer confusion.

And what measure do the French, the inventors if the metric system, use for loose fruit and veg? livres!! (or pounds) which is equivalent to 500g (cf uk lb 454g).

buy fruit, veg, meat, etc, all from local markets/butchers. They have always used pounds and ounces.
Cheaper, fresher and better value for money.
Anyone who buys supermarket fruit, veg and meat wants their head read.

The barons who forced the Magna Carta knew the value of having one system of measure across the realm. That is still the case today. Having both metric and imperial units gives unscrupulous traders a field day for sneaking in price increases. When the UK went metric, it should have been done properly as was done in Australia and South Africa. Instead the British Government allowed the eurosceptic movement to hijack the use of imperial units as a “badge of honour”. All that is happening is that our school children are getting confused – they are taught metric at school, but people like Asda use imperial units. Unlike their parents, they are expected to use calculators, something that you cannot do easily using imperial units, so those who are promoting the continued use of the imperial system are doing our country a disservice by perpetuating the confusing that our school children are suffering.

Although I’m over 80, I’m not one of those Luddites who yearns for past imperial glory. Tje metric system is used almost universally, It’s time we stopped looking back and lived in the present, and that means ONE system of measurement, and it’s metric.Use the kilo- it’s a thousand times simpler.

gladiator says:
20 January 2012

If every elderly people were like you, the metric conversion should be more smooth and less troublesome for it’s already been.

Daniel says:
11 June 2011

Keep in mine, ASDA did not switch back to pounds because the customers were asking for it, but because they saw an opportunity in the foolishness of the consumers. They reduced the size from 500 g to 454 g (removed about 2-3 strawberries from the pack), but continue to charge the same price as the previous 500 g size. If some fuddyduddy prefers 454 g at the price of 500, then they deserve to be cheated.

Anyone who is still struggling with the metric system after years of exposure can not be smart and if tested would have the same trouble with old measurements. It isn’t the measurements that is the problem it is the people.

Maybe some people don’t care but not knowing metric is a major reason businesses close up and take their jobs to metric countries. How can you produce metric products for the world market if your workers complain that they are constantly confused by the metric system? You do so by doing it in a country where the people aren’t confused and leave the workers in the home country unemployed and unemployable. Ignorance of the English (and American) is a blessing to the world. Keep it up.

Daniel,
I imagine you did not mean to cause offence but your second paragraph is very offensive.
There are lots of us, including those of us with first class degrees in mathematics who find visualising weights of foodstuffs in metric impossible simply because the British system of using imperial for food and medical matters until at least 20 years after it was ditched for all else has left us used to the old system.

michduncg says:
15 June 2011

David D

How can it be ‘impossible’ to visualise weights of foodstuff in metric? Are you saying that food is ‘naturally’ Imperial? What tosh! I as most prepacked food is packed in round metric packs, its easy to visualise.

I think what Daniel means is that it is not smart not to go metric. within 50 miles of my house, major employers are Honda, Airbus, BMW and Siemens. All metric companies, all investing in our country and our workforce + BMW has just announced an investment of £500 million If we were still teaching kids Imperial I doubt that would be the case.

Dear oh Dear – I am in trouble – being called by my Sunday name! LOL!

Seriously, I think that the reason Daniel and Michduncg et al can’t understand what I mean about visualising foodstuffs in metric is probably revealed in the phrase “..most pre packed foodstuffs…”. I’m talking about baking and cooking with raw ingredients from scratch. For example, if you have a tablespoon then by definition it holds an ounce of dry goods such as flour or sugar. Therefore, unless there is a proposal to ditch all existing tablespoons and replace them with new Metric ones, simple day to day measurements for cooking, not to mention billions of recipes, will be useless.

I have no objection at all to a dual system, and I would note that some other posters have pointed out that many local butchers and so on still weight out in metric or imperial as the customer asks. This is surely the best option.

When I first posted on here a few weeks ago I must confess that I never even considered one important point: why is there all this fuss about Asda when Waitrose, M&S and Somerfield (now the co-op) have, for as long as I have shopped (i.e. since the early 1980’s) had dual weights on all pre-packed items and weighed deli items in imperial if asked to ? Why it did not dawn on me that Asda are not actually doing anything new at all I do not know.

It also occurs to me as I type that the majority of pre-packed raw goods are actually sold in imperial anyway: why do you think Jam comes in 454g jars? Because 454g is 1Lb and the glass factories and jam factories were not about to change all their machines to take 500g and 1kg jars when we went metric. Likewise sugar, flour, etc is 454g and 908g bags and milk in 0.568 litre (i.e. 1 pint) bottles.

The more I think about it the more I realise that this is clearly some marketing ploy by Asda .

michduncg says:
14 July 2011

Dave

I too cook from scratch, and if you tell me you still have sugar and flour in your house measured in lbs then I would advise you to check the sell buy dates! I work in food retail and can assure you that these products have been sold in kg’s and g’s for about 20 years. I will take your word for it that a tablespoon is capable of measuring 1oz in dry goods. Tablespoons are very useful as they are defined as they are 15ml, with teaspoons 5ml.

As far as your comments about most items still being sold in 454g or multiples/divisions thereof, I wonder if this varies from retailer to retailer. Certainly most of the products I buy in my weekly shop at Waitrose are in rounded metric measures – pasta, meat, cereal, oils, vinegar, tinned goods, salad ingredients (tomatoes in 500g punnets), meat, bacon (sausages are in 454g in the old style packs, or 400g in new packs of 6), cheese, butter, cider, wine etc. The issue with jam and preserves is that they belong to a group products which can only be sold in particular sizes – bread also belongs to this category. Your comments about jars etc remaining in imperial sizes are dubious given that a lot of UK food in jars is made for a wider market. We could in fact be paying over the odds on some products by forcing food suppliers to run two production lines, one for UK Imperial sizes and another for the rest of the world (except the US)

I simply do not agree that it is in the national interest to run a dual measurement system. No other country does it, our kids are having enough problems with numeracy without us forcing this ridiculous situation on them. And it works the other way. I meet a lot of people in my line of work who request measurements of a product in Imperial eg 150 cm. When I convert that to 5 ft, they will usually ask what that is in inches! Furthermore, running two measurement systems is bad news for consumers – it makes it diificult to compare prices, and price tags are cluttered and ambiguous. We recently rejected a ridiculously complicated voting system that was only used in 3 countries in the world. The same is true of the Imperial system, so lets reject that as well.

Michael says:
11 June 2011

A terrible backward step. In a week that has seen investment of £750 million by foreign owned and metric car manufacturers into our economy, the importance being fully conversant in metric by the British public is very clear.

As far as weight in supermarkets go, I think that there is now far too much information on dual weighed items to make it clear. Not only have Asda added the imperial weight to the aforementioned fruit, the Co-op have added imperial weight and price per lb as well the metric equivalents to some of their pre packed meat. It is all too much to take in. The Government really should leglislate against this.

Michael Glass says:
12 June 2011

As an older Australian I am completely nonplussed at the idea of using two competing systems of measurement side by side. There should be just one system of weights and measures in the market and the only sensible choice is the metric system.

Mike Shaw` says:
12 June 2011

What ever is universal counts. From my point of view one pound weight is roughly half a kilo and that gives me some idea about the products competitiveness.

Cliff Steele says:
13 June 2011

Because 70% of shoppers are confused by metric there is no reason to pander to their ignorance by giving them alternative units. If 70% of people said that they were confused by reading and writing in English what would would ASDA do about that? Label their products in Latin?
As far as I know, that 70% figure was given by a tabloid newspaper.Tabloid newspapers report WW2 bombers found on the moon and make up stories about bendy bananas being banned by the EU so I would take that figure with a pinch of salt anyway.
What ASDA and all other retailers should be doing is getting rid of all the literal conversions to metric like 0.946 litres of milk and rounding them up or down to sensible figures like 1 litre or 500 ml. Changing the punnet size from 500g to 454g is what NOT to do.

I find the whole topic confusing about why it is confusing!.

Strawberries are sold in punnets – the actual weight is effectively immaterial – you can see the amount of strawberries in the punnet. The shops I visit do not give a choice of a punnet in metric or a punnet in imperial. You are given a choice of buying or not buying the punnet in front of you.

The only time imperial/metric comes into play as far as I’m concerned is when I compare the cost of fillet steak today £12.22 a kilo and £1 a lb of yesterday – and noting it is more expensive now.

Andy says:
13 June 2011

Using a mixture of both systems is ridiculous and just allows us to be ripped off, because no-one is able to compare. Think about petrol: Every motorist knows how much a litre costs – you instantly know at a glance that if you see £1.20 its cheap and if you see £1.40 its expensive. You would not be able to do that if garages used different measurements. Although the cost of fruit and veg is maybe not as critical to peoples wallets as petrol is, most people should have at least a rough idea how much some basic foods cost – but they don’t because a mixture of systems is used so people just ignore the weights.

Sophie Gilbert says:
13 June 2011

Just a ploy to confuse as many people as possible and make as much money out of it as possible. See Asda pat its own back pocket, it all adds up in there.

ionlywant trains says:
15 June 2011

Having been educated since the 70’s I wasn’t taught the imperial system in school. So that means anyone who is under 40 has been taught the metric system. So how can the metric system be confusing?
How many grams in a kilogram? a nice easy 1000 (the meaning of kilo)
How many ounces in a pound (is that not the money we use?)? no clue in the name? It must be the same as the number of pounds in a stone? right?

Dennis says:
28 June 2011

I personally would like to see products measured in the same way ! !
If I buy loose tomatoes I want to know the price per kilo or pound, if I buy packed tomatoes I want to know how much per kilo of those tomatoes are so that I can compare the price of two different ways of buying the same product. Likewise in fluid measurement how can I compare millilitres against ounces for instance. Imperial or metric I want to be able to make an educated assessment on price so as I can buy knowing I am getting value for money.

Wild strawberries are only 7 francs a kilo according to a well known song.

Personally my vote is for a wholesale change to metric. Imperial measurements should be consigned to the history books (but not forgotten) to join the groat and the cubit.

Dennis says:
3 July 2011

I think we should go back to imperial measurement.
At the same time we should get out of the Common Market and stop the gravy train for these
MEP’s and get rid of the beaurocracy and these stupid stupid things they dream up all the time! ! !

regards Dennis

michduncg says:
3 July 2011

So did the EU ‘force’ Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, India and just about every other country in the entire world to go metric as well? In the same way of course, it never forced us to go metric. That decision was taken by an elected UK Government in the interest of British industry.

And a good thing it id too. Look at how much of our manufacturing is under the control of foreign owned and metrically orientated organisations – Airbus, BMW, Nissan, Ford, Siemens etc – all investing billions of pounds in the UK and all 100% metric businesses. Who require UK work forces that are all trained in metric.

You may also be interested to know that all of HM Armed Forces are metric for procurement purposes, including the sizes of the uniforms!