/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Supermarkets can BOGOF with their confusing fruit pricing

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.

Comments

All products and services ought to display price per unit, at tyhe point of sale, proir to committment.
This must include fresh fruit and vegetables, plus gas, electricity, and telecoms.
Preditory pricing methods may then be neutered by alert cusomers.
Doug Knox.

Fi Brown says:
28 June 2012

Everything should be priced by weight e.g. grams/kilograms. Net weight for things in punnets.

R.Brisset says:
28 June 2012

The supermarkets are continuously out to cheat. Good on Lidl and Aldi I shop here more and more and attempt to encourage others to do likewise. I would agree that if the supermarkets wish to be truthful (for once) have a base unit for foodstuffs such as a kilo ( gram) or litres for liquids. The price should be clearly desplayed thereby allowing the public to decide if the supermarkets are giving a fair deal or trying to hoodwink us. Let the supermarkets know that the public is not as stupid as they believe.

Don’t say cheat say deception,(Intent to defraud- prosecution to follow? Call a spade a spade!

Viv says:
28 June 2012

The supermarkets won’t change their pricing until forced to by law because when they do the numbers, they know most customers just buy what they want – then probably bin the excess. More money than sense. Disgraceful waste on both sides. So much fresh food is thrown out at the end of the day because the supermarkets/shops have become frightened of being sued if a customer (or a grateful hungry person) gets ‘sick’ after eating its unsold produce. Oh another thing that bugs me – shelled mussels in season (I know not everyone’s favourite food – but lovely cooked in wine) are imported from CHILE! when we have plenty here in the UK.

Never knew about the mussels being from Chile. Thanks for the info, worth knowing!

Viv says:
29 June 2012

Hi cmhk52 – the mussels I mentioned are the pre-packed shelled ones – I couldn’t believe when I saw Chile printed on the pack. The fresh mussels in nets hopefully are from UK. Also look at the ‘fresh’ seasonal veg – lots come from Guatamala and other exotic, possibly water hungry, countries. Garlic from China! Fresh flowers flown in from far away countries too – just look on the pack – it’s frightening. Must calm down now and go back to the scambled eggs from my 2 chickens. Yum

Prices aside, this information came through from a Medical Journal about fruit a veg which may interest readers:

Apples are the most polluted produce – and onions are the most pesticide-free
Apples are the most pesticide-laden fruit or vegetable we buy, and celery and peppers are not far behind. The ‘cleanest’ are onions, sweetcorn and pineapples, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has just published its latest survey of pesticides in non-organic foods.

The EWG researchers say they discovered detectable pesticide residues in 68 per cent of the food they sampled, including chemicals that are banned for agricultural use. Residues were also discovered in baby foods, including organophosphates that can cause neurodevelopment problems.

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce again lists its ‘Dirty Dozen’, but also includes a list of the least contaminated foods and vegetables, which it calls its ‘Clean 15’.

Topping the list of the most contaminated were apples, followed by celery, peppers. Peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce and cucumber, while the ‘cleanest’ were onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet pea, asparagus, mango, aubergine (eggplant), and kiwi fruit.

Green beans, kale and collard greens had residues that placed them outside the Dirty Dozen, but organophosphate insecticides were found.

Lobby groups such as the Alliance for Food and Farming say the EWG has distorted the figures, and fruit and vegetables can be washed beforehand to remove any pesticide residues – although environmental groups say that washing doesn’t always do the trick.

(Source: Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summar

Now I know why apples sometimes taste like BHC.

david says:
29 June 2012

I’m a single shopper and feel supermarkets are taking the mickey with a lot of their offers.1 pineapple £1.50 or 2 for £2. i cant eat 2 and most other shoppers would only want 1 and a different unit piece just for variety.This applies to ALL offers,just bring the price down as they can afford to give these offers.

Whilst I do buy for th family, I am the only one who eats fruit so I know how you feel. I often end up pigging out on the fruit just to use it up! False economy.

Chris says:
29 June 2012

Tesco are very big offenders.

Fruit and veg is one thing. Their biggest offence, designed to confuse I suggest, is on something simpler, the price of cheese, where the rate per 100gs is quoted alongside another brand of similar of cheese, so much per kilo. The mental calculation to understand best value will be beyond many, maybe even most, customers.

This is so deliberate I conclude Tesco do this as a policy decision.

The “two for £2″type pricing, is also getting a much stronger push in Tesco, deliberately increasing the cost of food to those who are not wealthy enough to buy two.

The punters are not stupid. No wonder Tesco’s image has been damaged.

Jim Reynolds says:
30 June 2012

A lot of supermarket fruit and veg has no price displayed at all, and if you ask a member of staff they seem annoyed!

Mike Arthur says:
30 June 2012

The senior management of all major supermarkets will have been involved in creating and reviewing their company’s mission statements. I would bet that all of them will have some reference to valuing their customers. Then their sales and marketing departments dream up schemes to bamboozle or trick those customers into falsely believing that they are getting special offers of real value.
Do they value customers or only increased profits?

Major companies listed on the Stock Exchange are required to include a ‘corporate social responsibiity’ report in their Annual Report and Accounts. It might be worth while for Which? to do a little research into what Asda, Morrison, Sainsbury, and Tesco have to say about their responsibility for fair trading in relation to weights & measures and pricing. I am not sure whether Waitrose – as a partnership – and The Cooperative Food – as a cooperative – are under the same obligation but if they are then they should be included in the exercise for comparative purposes. It’s probably another case like Barclays where ‘words and figures don’t agree’.

I am suspicious of bog offs. How often does the second item go off before consumption? It also discriminates against single persons / pensioners.

Chris says:
30 June 2012

I commented yesterday on Tesco having differrent price/weight ratios for a simple thing like cheese. It is so stupid it MUST be deliberate and designed to confuse

I checkled out Waitrose today, their speciality cheeses are individually priced by the lump. Their general cheeses are however marked better than Tesco “£ per kilo”, this is consistent. but even this falls short of what is desireable. The most useful meaure I suggest is one that relates to a weight of the goods that customers actually by and can relate to. People do not tend to buy a kilo of cheese. I conclude even Waitrose have got it wrong.

Let us campaign for consistent pricing ratios for dairy products, “£ per 100 grammes”.

In relation to veg pricing some supermarkets are markedly less honest than the barrow boys of old. “£ per lb” was the traditional way..

Perhaps the only answer (and who wants to do this!) is to take a calculator into the supermarket and work out everything per 100gm. A good phone app would be a bonus here – manufacturers please note

stan says:
11 August 2012

surely its more important to end the buy one get one free ? in vertually all supermarket departments in particular packaged goods like meat, coffee and cereals etc… Why should a customer very high proices for a single can of beans or whatever oe even as I found in Boots the chemist I paid £9.99 for a plastic bottle of sunscreen only to be told at the checkout its 2 bottles for the price of one, I have no use for 2 bottles of sunscreen and this applies to all multiple sales,
Why are do we as a nation allow business to rip us off .

This is a major problem to all consumers and creats major food waste (thousands of tonnes per year approximating to about 30% waste in total) and reduces consumer purchasing power.
Famly units comprise about 2.2/2.5 individuals per family ?? many are currently unemployed or working for free in pound shops courtesy of government job centres to be eligable for unemployment benefits. This is to be tested in the High Court!
Remember nothing is for free unless you invest in a supermarket.

Cheers stan

The only real answer is legislation, restoring ancient laws by which commodities must be sold by weight, and which by volume, and in some cases in specific pack sizes. For example: 250g, 500g, 1Kg or multiples thereof.
Now we have a plethora of odd sizes, like 305g of jam or 450ml of washing up liquid.

why is tesco down in profits? they have become very expensive.staff are the least helpful on average than any other supermarket the are the toughest on their suppliers in producwe purchase.i have met scores of people who just do not shop in tescos anymore

snobbery as regards Lidlo and Aldi shopping.even i did not say i shopped therde.there aes some things they dont have but for saving and getting good quality you cant beat them..german companies.when i was young my parents said buy british buy the best..germany now is best for quality in many depts dependable and reliable.they dont make or sell rubbish. aldi and lidl almost every time aqnd shops are spacious etc

I shop mostly at Aldi however i was a bit surprised at the Price they were asking for Lean Diced Braising Beef at £2.89 ASDA; SAINBURY.ICELAND all £2.49 if they start that getting greedy they will soon loose customers.

John says:
24 January 2013

What really bugs me is, for example, bananas – some labelled per kilo, and next to them others labelled per piece, so I cant compare.

And offers to buy three that are cheaper than individuals: i dont want three – i want one at the cheaper price.

Makes steam come out of my head!!

Trouble is that it would appear that when a consultation takes place the Supermarkets respond and it would seem that they effectively halt or water down the legislation to a very significant amount. The consultaion should take place with the consumer first then to theS/markets and back to the consumers to counter their comments. All too often much consumer legislation is negated. Please folks make this your point to your Masters (wash my mouth out).

I agree with John Supermarkets should make Prices so everyone can compare price per Kilo not per 100grms not all of us have a brain like Rachel Riley or Carol Vorderman.