Summer’s come around, and with it lots of cheap deals on things like strawberries, mangoes, and other refreshing summer fruits. But why are supermarkets still making it tricky for us to work out which are best value?
I’m trying (reasonably unsuccessfully) to lose weight at the moment. One of the key things I’ve tried to do is avoid crisps, chocolate and various other calorie-packed treats, and spend more time browsing the fruit and veg aisle to see if I can pick up something healthier.
My main gripe is that many of the healthy snacks I want to buy are almost impossible to compare in terms of price. Take grapes, strawberries or raspberries, for instance – nature’s sweets – easy snacks which have the added bonus that I can share them around the office and show everyone how virtuous I’m being.
They’re sold in pre-packaged tubs and often discounted at two for £4, or two for £3 if I’m lucky. The problem I have with this is that they’re so rarely not on discount that I have no idea how much they’re supposed to cost. Am I getting a bargain, or not? And if I go to a different supermarket, how do I know which one’s cheaper?
Packs, punnets and price
I was quite pleased when our Which? researchers had a quick nose into some supermarket’s fruit sections and found that it’s not just me who is easily confused by pricing. Some of our researchers compared the prices of whole mangos with sliced mango in supermarkets – not the easiest task, as they’re often priced completely differently.
In Tesco, individual mangoes were priced at 88p each, whereas packaged mango chunks were 67p per 100g. Similarly, in Waitrose, mangoes were priced per item (with a pack of two costing £1.25), while mango chunks were marked at 99.5p per 100g.
They found similar difficulties when comparing a punnet of plums with a pack of plums. In Asda, a 400g punnet was priced at £2.50 per kg, while a pack of six were priced at 25p per plum.
A case of sour grapes?
Some people might say ‘OK, but surely you could work it out?’ Well actually – no. In some situations I could – if I were given the weight of my grapes in all instances, or if I carried a pair of scales with me, I could work out how much per 100g each punnet should cost.
The problem here is that although some items are priced per 100g, others are priced ‘per pack’ or ‘per item’. It would be a hundred times simpler if everything used the same unit for the unit price (as well as the actual price you pay for the product). It might also mean that when we go into a shop and see a special offer we can work out if it’s a genuine bargain.
But supermarkets aren’t required to give the unit price for special offers at all. Two punnets of grapes for £4 might be a great deal, but in order to compare it to the cost of buying grapes loose, I need to know how much each costs per Kg.
We’re campaigning at the moment for clearer unit pricing on food, and trying to persuade the supermarkets that this quick and simple change will make the world of difference to consumers. It certainly will to me, and I hope it will to you too! If you want to support us, please sign our unit pricing pledge, letting us know which supermarket you use most regularly, and help us spread the word.
Working out unit pricing is not rocket science, so let’s get supermarkets making it far more prominent, using consistent units and providing it on special offers. That way we will save time in the supermarket and money at the till.