/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Are refill packs cheaper? Not always…

Most people would agree that refill packs are a good idea; they typically use less packaging and claim to be better for the environment. So why do some supermarkets charge more for refill packs than the normal version?

In the food aisles of your local supermarket, you’re most likely to see refill packs on coffee, herbs and spices.

Manufacturers often claim these packs require less energy to produce and transport than the glass jars that these products normally come in.

Refill for more

But what if these refill packs are more expensive than the normal version? Well, when we examined the price of refills, this was exactly the case for refill versions of products such as Nescafé Original and Schwartz Garlic Granules in Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose.

Not many shoppers are going to put their environmental conscience ahead of their wallet and continue buying them in that case – I know I wouldn’t.

And unless you go to the trouble of scrutinising the price per unit on each item you buy, you might not even notice that the refill pack is more expensive. I’d always assumed that refill packs were cheaper, until an eagle-eyed Which? member alerted us to this problem.

Have you spotted a poor value refill pack?

To their credit, Morrisons and Asda agreed that refill packs should be better value and rectified their pricing mistakes. But Waitrose said they didn’t think it was appropriate to comment on branded products – even though it’s the supermarkets and not the manufacturers who set prices – and Tesco didn’t provide us with a comment.

Have you spotted a refill pack that’s more expensive than the original version? Let us know in the comments below and email us at: foodeditor@which.co.uk – we’ll keep an eye on this issue and alert the supermarkets to any more examples you find.


When Sainsbury’s introduced milk in plastic bags, claiming a dramatic reduction in the amount of packaging, we bought the special jug with a self-righteous glow that we were doing something green. It was some weeks before we realised that we were paying a premium price for this. Even at the special offer price of 3 x 2pint bags for £2 we were paying more than the £1.76 for a 6pint plastic jug of the same milk.

They should be cheaper. Perhaps this would happen if packaging was taxed.

I always look at the refill packs of coffee as we drink rather a lot! I go by the price per 100 grams but sometimes this is not given! I always check the unit pricing of multi-packs, like toilet and kitchen rolls as the largest on offer is not always the cheapest. Supermarkets are very crafty and we have to try and be as clever although it is not always possible. The worst things are vegetables etc where the unit price is sometimes per Kilo and next to it something in grams. It is impossible to compare!

Lang says:
2 March 2020

With this virus going around I was looking for refills of cleaner and found out that in some cases the refills are up t0 50p More than the original package

Ive found that my favourite shampoo, Pantene, is now offered in flexible refill packs using 60% ‘less’ plastic. Great! Except ml for ml the refill is more or less twice the price! Each pack weighs less and being flexible means less space taken up in transport. The cost is prohibitive for most people Im sure