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Do you question your supermarket’s pricing tactics?

Special offer campaign labels

You may be a shopper who follows a list, compares prices and doubts every offer. Or you may just sling things in a basket and hope for the best. But however you shop, working out what’s cheapest is not always easy.

Supermarkets and big brands want you to spend money with them and so they employ a host of tactics to get you to part with your cash. We’ve pulled out five shopping tactics or issues that we think you should watch out for.

These might not be deliberate ploys or attempts to mislead customers, but they do all make it harder for you to know how to get the best deal. So, here, we’ve suggested ways to beat the system.

Shrinking products costing you more

To compile our list we crunched data from the independent shopping website Mysupermarket.co.uk, visited each supermarket and recorded details from their websites. Not all supermarkets could be included in all categories, as some don’t sell online. Some of the tactics we unearthed include products that shrink in size but not in price –  a topic we’ve discussed in great length before.

Now as the saying goes, sometimes good things come in small packages – and when it comes to refills, this may well be the case. In Asda, the Kenco Eco Refill (150g or 275g) was the same price per 100g as the 200g jar. And it’s thanks to the trusty unit price that we can see these kinds of anomalies at a glance – as surely you’d expect the refill to be cheaper?

When bigger isn’t always better value

And on this note, bigger doesn’t always mean better value. We found examples where the bigger pack wasn’t better value, even though some of the larger packs were claimed to be at a special price. This was the case with Tesco selling four cans of Green Giant Original Sweetcorn for £2 (was £2.44) but six cans were proportionally more expensive at £3.56. And that’s despite the fact the larger pack said ‘special value pack’. Sometimes, buying separate items can work out cheaper.

Late last year we called on supermarkets to Make Special Offers Special. We are continuing to talk to the supermarkets about their offers as we think all special offers should be transparent so that you can easily tell which products are cheapest. We’re keen to hear if you’ve been lured in by this pricing tactics and if you feel they’re costing you money in the long run. What is your pet hate when it comes to supermarket pricing?


The top priority must be to have unit prices on all goods, including multi-buy offers. Then we can compare unit prices and it does not matter what games the supermarkets play with prices.

Let us fight the battle for unit prices on every single product.


You can blame the poorly thought out and implemented Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for that one. It completely missed out multi-buys. And the fact that some 6 years later on its still not been plugged leads me to believe it won’t happen anytime soon, although with an election coming hope I can only hope.


Just two years ago, we were discussing Asda’s plan to cut down on multi-buys: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/asda-supermarket-multibuys-phase-out/comment-page-1/

I have not heard any more about this, so I presume that the Asda is back to forcing us to buy more perishable food than we need, just like the other supermarkets have continued to do.


Well considering the multi buy is a mechanic for moving more stock for the supermarket rather than being a benefit to the consumer I’m not surprised.

And here was another unpopular epetition I started 🙁



Lets us have straightforward discount offers no bog offs, no false pricing. Multi buy offers discriminate against the less well off and single person.


Not only unit pricing, but unit pricing that can be seen and read without changing to reading glasses. Unit pricing that is consistant throughout the store. Unit pricing that is un-ambiguous.

My pet hate is quite clear here also, and will get negative comments I know.
NO dual pricing, NO dual labeling, NO unit prices per lb, specially when its the same size font as price / kg.

Some time ago I got caught with this unit price per lb for one item thinking it was the cheaper. Yes it was stupid and nieve, but in the instant it worked. In Tesco this week chestnuts were singled out for ‘price per lb’. Why chestnuts I wondered? Does it really serve to inform, or does it serve to confuse? It certainly confuses me, but then I am an old fogie and easily confused.


I thought dual pricing was displayed to help old confused fogies. Although I’m an old fogie, sometimes confused, I use metric measures only in supermarkets. Because there are still some elderly shoppers who shop in imperial the dual pricing may help them but it may just be part of the supermarkets foggy pricing policy. Whatever it is, they must all be consistent and show the metric price in larger print than the imperial.

Elaine says:
18 February 2014

I regularly shop in French supermarkets and it makes me angry that UK supermarkets don’t:
A) price everything prominently by the kilo, whether loose, shrink wrapped, bottled, in jars, in tins etc. Then you can compare prices accurately.
B) let you weigh and price your own fruit and veg, so you can see exactly what you’re spending before you get to the checkout.
C) cut back on the wasteful, often uneconomic, BOGOF and three for two offers. You don’t see that many in France, and where you do it’s mostly on non perishables, particularly shampoos, soaps etc.
D) stop offering carrier bags, even those that are charged for. Shoppers soon get used to remembering their own reusable bags if there is no way of being provided with the means of carrying shopping at the tills!


“To compile our list we crunched data from” hope you took into account that some supermarkets the online price is not the price you pay in the store. I know ASDA fall into that category.

I’d like to see all multibuys banned, or implement the same system they have in the USA, where the cost of a single item is prorated from the cost of the multibuy. e.g. single item is 20p, buy 10 for £1 yet if you buy one you’re only charged 10p.

“That’s despite the fact the larger pack said special value pack” is that still the case as I know many companies have now removed any indication the the large items are better value and that’s been the case for some months. Kellogs Crunchy nut now say The Biggest One. When I noticed I asked them why they changed it and the reply from the company lawyers was it was more in-keeping with the image they wanted to portray. Wonder if all the other companies that had just renamed large boxes did it at the same time for the same reason. This was a few moths after it was pointed out that supermarkets were making not attempt to ensure that was the c