/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Supermarkets to offer clear pricing – four down, six to go

Ketchup and Banana with food labels

It’s been a busy 18 months here at Which? towers. We’ve been working with the supermarkets to make it easier for us all to compare prices and we’re delighted to have serious commitments from four supermarkets.

Since I started work on the Price it Right campaign I have become increasingly aware of how important unit pricing is to so many people.

Our research showed that 63% of people who use unit pricing find inconsistent measurements make comparing products difficult. One person told us:

‘There definitely needs to be standardisation across all shops etc so that we can see exactly how much we have to pay for the goods.’

With 70% of us worried about food prices, it was clear that this campaign was crucial to helping all of us make savings.

Unit pricing missing on multibuys

Now unit pricing is one of those things that makes our lives easier. Like a malfunctioning television aerial – you can put up with it but it makes your life a lot better when it gets fixed. Making your lives better is bread and butter for us at Which?.

We presented our research findings and your concerns and comments to retailers and the government. Consumer affairs minister, Jo Swinson, took this on as an issue and we were able to see through the changes quickly. Our qualms with unit pricing were based on five key things:

1. The unit price is not always displayed.

2. The unit price is often small and hard to see.

3. Different units are used for varieties of the same product.

4. Fresh produce can display the price per item or per Kg making it impossible to compare.

5. The unit price does not have to be shown for promotions.

Confusing food labels

The main cause of these problems seemed to be complex legislation, non-user friendly label designs and mistakes during the labelling process. Cue our Price it Right campaign.

In September last year, the first retailer, Morrisons, began to roll out new shelf-edge labels, making sure that the unit price was on all its products. Since then, Waitrose, Aldi, the Coop and Sainsbury’s have begun to make similar changes to their pricing practices including designing clearer labels.

Lidl and Tesco have promised to make changes to the ways they display their pricing, but have yet to commit to colours suitable to the visually impaired or ensuring unit pricing is used on multibuys. And as Which? Convo commenter Fill tells us – unit pricing multi-buys can help us to get the best deal.

‘The other great thing about unit pricing is it sometimes shows the irony of a special offer or multibuy still not being cheaper than some other pack size.’

We’re waiting for Asda, M&S and Iceland to let us know what they plan to do. We are hoping they will catch up soon as we’ve called on you to give them a gentle nudge with our series of tweets.

The improvements that are already – and will soon be – visible in stores are those that the supermarkets have been able to make voluntarily. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with the supermarkets and the government and send a big thank you to all our supporters who have helped make this happen.


So we just need supermarkets to put the produce and corresponding labels together now. T****o are pretty poor at doing that at the moment.

Thanks to all involved for making progress, though I will be celebrating when my local Tesco implements these changes, including making their labels suitable for the visually impaired and putting prices on multibuys.

I use unit pricing and report errors. I did this a couple of months ago in the local Tesco store and was very impressed when a member of staff agreed with the problem and came printed a correct label. Since he was so helpful, I took him to the veg display and challenged him to tell me whether it was cheaper to buy loose apples or a bag of them. He could not do this.

Perhaps we should waste the time of supermarket staff by asking them to use the information provided on their labels to tell us which product is best value for money. If they cannot or guess wrongly, then the message is clear that customers are not being treated fairly.

This is more good news but it will be even better when Tesco and the other laggards do the business. I usually find the store staff very helpful when I point out errors in price labels and mis-positioning. It does pay to interrupt them for a moment to get things rectified. Wavechange’s final point above is most apposite: if the staff – and even the category supervisors on occasion – can’t get the price right, what hope is there for the rest of us in the supermarket sweep?

Tesco are a law unto themselves, on 18th April I emailed the CEO and point 8 in that email was unit pricing and that they could if they improved it be seen as being a leader, and now as they’re dragging their heels over this, they can only be viewed as playing catch up.They seem to be driven by that bug eyed monster greed rather than anything sensible like customer service.

I was in Tesco Extra ,Shirley today, we were looking for Braising Steak. I picked up a pack and couldn’t find any details for weight, price per KG, pack cost. After closer examination I found the weight , 500 gm, on the side of the pack. Then found the pack price on the shelf edge below, £6, but no price per KG. All packs were the same. I thought things were meant to improve!

Kurst says:
17 August 2013

I work for one of these chains and I am constantly dismayed by their incorrect labellings especially the produce. Class 1 produce is the highest standard yet they continually peddle lower class fruit and veg to the customers.

I suspect they’ll say its the best at the time rather than what most customers would think of as being Class 1. The little rascals.

Why is it always down to interpretation of a word rather than something specific/accurate meaning.

Maybe Oxford (other dictionaries are available) should publish a new dictionary on how words are used by companies and not normal people. With maybe a handy cross over list. Just a thought.

Interpretation of terms used by estate agents was done many years ago, though I have only seen this on websites.

I liked the old supermarket ‘value packs’ that were poorer value for money than separate items.

Debbie Murphy says:
30 September 2013

I agree it is time all the major supermarkets display the equivalent prices from buying bagged or buying loose – it is confusing!

I was perplexed to see 650g boxes of ‘Fox’s Fabulously Special Selection’ biscuits in Tesco recently, priced at £5.00 per box.

The unit price is shown as 76.9p each. If my arithmetic is correct, the box should contain 6.5 biscuits, but decent sized ones. 🙂

I removed the shelf label to show to Customer Services, but forgot. At least it is no longer there to confuse other customers.

Tesco’s own website is listing them at 69p per 100g which is clearly wrong.

mysupermarket is listing them as 76.9p per 100g which is correct. ( although odd that they always claim to take info from the supermarkets own website, yet clearly not in this instance. )

I’m not surprised that Tesco can’t get this stuff right, I’m sure they have no QA or any one with basic maths skills.

Data from :


Thanks for that. I periodically point out this sort of error. Our local Tesco had a young man who could do mental arithmetic but I suspect he has moved on.

William – Do you know if anyone bothers to report errors like the one on the Tesco website to Trading Standards? Unlike my silly example customers might think that products are better value than they really are.

I’ve consigned the Tesco label to the junk drawer, beside one for 6 packs of crisps for £1.28, unit price £21.34 per 100g.

Sounds like someone should issue a Freedom of Information request, assuming that’s what they are they for.

I’ve given up reporting things like this to Trading Standards or directly to Tesco.

Tesco’s answer is always we have 10k’s of products so one error is to be expected. Now and again.

And the CEO wonders why they not doing well.

And Trading Standards you’ll need to ring a an expensive 084 number to report it to Citizens Advice.

I’ve mentioned this before and people didn’t like it, but here goes again.

If a consumer spots a mistake they should be able to present it to the supermarket and get paid, say £50, for doing the job that over 1000 supermarket employees have failed to do. I can guarantee errors like this would disappear overnight.

I think the main reason for the mistakes and the seemingly lack of interest by staff to address them, is the target culture supermarkets have their staff working to.

My daughter is currently preparing online shopping orders for delivery at a large Sainsburys, She has to “pack” 100 items in 1 minute every minute in her 4 hour shift and she only gets a short break.. So there’s no time to spot and remedy pricing issues like this.

I wonder why there are so many errors in Tesco’s shelf labels (unit pricing and multi-buy offers) when they seem to be much better at charging the correct price at the till. The company should be fined for not addressing the error problem.

It may be worth asking if your local Trading Standards has an alternative number. Mine advertises a geographical number.

I am very disappointed by how the public are using FOI requests. Many are frivolous and vexatious, which may be why serious requests are often handled poorly. The search facility on the website is not very useful and I have found it very difficult, for example, to find whether information regarding the effectiveness of Trading Standards has been provided.