/ Shopping

Supermarket ‘better value’ multi-packs not always better value

Supermarkets are still at it. We exposed Sainsbury’s and Asda a couple of months ago over claims that bigger multi-packs were better value, when in fact they were nothing of the sort. Now Tesco has joined them.

Thanks to some tip-offs – including a comment from Linda Philips here on Which? Conversation – we found Tesco selling Princes Tuna Steaks at £1.57 a tin, but the supermarket’s ‘bigger value’ three-pack cost £5.68.

Thanks to my trusty calculator, I can reveal that it was 97p more expensive to buy the ‘bigger value’ pack.

We also found Green Giant Original Sweet Niblets at 55p per tin, with the ‘special value’ four-pack at £2.39 – meaning you’d have saved 19p by buying four individual tins.

Why is it so difficult to get this right? Yes, Tesco stocks thousands of products, but these should only be advertised as ‘bigger value’ if they actually offer genuine value to customers.

Tesco responds to pricing complaints

Tesco told us that ‘in these instances, the price of the individual pack moved down in price and it took a short while for the multi-pack price to follow suit.’ And indeed, these prices have now been changed on Tesco’s website.

But we’ve still reported the supermarket to trading standards, just as we did with Asda and Sainsbury’s – we think promoting multi-packs as better value when they’re not is wrong.

Our ‘daft supermarket offers‘ Flikr gallery is already bursting with photos you’ve sent in, but we think these ‘better value’ offers are even worse.

So if you’ve spotted any of these potentially misleading multi-packs in your local supermarket, please describe them in the comments below and send pictures to helpwanted@which.co.uk with the title ‘daft offers’.

We’ve got to work together and make sure the supermarkets take note, otherwise we could be left with daft and misleading offers for ever more.


I suspect part of the issue is to ‘legally mislead’ but I suspect part of the issue is that genuine mistakes do occur. Especially when you consider that each supermarket stocks tens of thousands of lines.

I tend to go by price per weight, although this annoys my other half as it adds to the food shopping time. But then I remind her that there are nicer things I’d rather spend our money on then wasting any more on the tedious monotony of the weekly shop than we have to. But sometimes supermarkets don’t make it clear if the ‘price per weight’ (ppw) is the original ppw or if it’s the ppw with the offer taken into account.

Washing powder always seems cheaper in smaller boxes. McVities Digestives, 400g 2-pack ‘value’ pack for £2.40 odd, or 99p each. Bonkers.

Richard says:
27 November 2010

Another reason for the higher prices for multi-packs is that they inflate the prices prior to introducing the ‘buy one get one free’ option for that particular brand – thus increasing the illusion of value.

Gaynor Cottrill says:
27 November 2010

Yesterday I complained again at Asda Burton on Trent that for two weeks running I found an error on my receipt on offers of two packs of prawns and buying two bottles of olive oil which did not register as an offer on my receipts. They said it was a computer error and gave me a £2 voucher but I feel it is going to be a tedious routine to have to check receipts every time you shop. They are also encouraging you to bulk buy so you think you are getting better value by doing so.

Gavin says:
27 November 2010

We’ve stopped shopping at one particular asda store (hulme, manchester) after consistantly not seeing the advertised deals when at checkout. Only finding out when checking the receipt once home. We now shop at more expensive competitor becuase they are yet to incorrectly charge us. Even though they’re typically more expensive they end up being far cheaper as you don’t get stung with misleading over pricing.

It happens so oftent that it can only be deliberatly misleading or as a result of massive incompetence. Is it just this particular store or have other people experienced this at other asda’s?

Other people have told us that bogus special offers have made them actually buy less and I am avoiding a supermarket because i’ve paid too much for two items after so called special offers. Two thirds of us are influenced by products that are marketed as ‘better value’, but I suspect that many feel very frustrated if they find out that they have paid over the odds for bogus special offers.

john Inglesby says:
27 November 2010

Supermarkets are getting away with so much nowadays as regards kidding the consumer, I worked in Supermarkets and also many years in the Greengrocery Trade both as a Manager and also my own business altogether about 40 years in retail,
The latest scam that the supermarkets have been pulling off over the last couple of years is by advertising fruit and vegetables as half price , this is complete nonsense as produce is a seasonal thing and supply and demand determines the retail price,
they really do think the public are not aware of this , a few weeks ago I reported this to trading standards where I live, all their half price offers where double the price of the few private greengrocers that are now left in the high street ,they have all but obliterated small business’s in the high street and think they can manipulate the market,

Paul B says:
27 November 2010

I saw your item on BBC Breakfast and it reminded me of other practices that supermarkets employ. ‘Daft’ 3 for 2 offers and bigger packs being more expensive per unit than smaller packs (I have noticed this frequently) can be dismissed by the supermarkets as “mistakes” there are two practices that are clearly intended to deceive, mislead or confuse:

1. to enable prices of different brands to be compared the shelf label shows ‘price per unit’. But for different brands of the same product one label will show ‘pence per 100g’ next to it will be ‘£ per Kg’. Whilst it is not difficult to make the calculation it still takes time and at first glance the ‘pence per 100g’ always looks cheaper so you usually find it on their own brand.
This is extremely irritating as you know there is no reason for doing this other than to mislead

2. where you have loose items eg. fruit and veg, alongside packaged similar items the loose items are priced per Kg wheras the packages items are priced per box often with an odd weight so it is difficult (unless you have a pocket calculator with you and the time to do it) to make a proper comparison. This may be legal but the supermarkets obviously persist with this practice as it confuses and misleads the customer

Hello there, on the BBC this morning they said the average shopper spends six seconds looking at the price label and for some it’s really difficult to work out the maths! I’m going shopping soon and I may have to take a calculator and one of the kids so I do not pay over the top. I suppose it keeps us on our toes with mental arithmetic….

Frank Miller says:
30 November 2010

Regarding loose or packaged items. Visit any Sainsbury Supermarket, go to the Free Trade banana area and you will see they are being sold loose or in a plastic bag. It is not always possible to see the price per kilo of the loose bananas but the bagged ones are usually £1 (or more) per bag.
Out of interest I recently popped a £1 bag on to the scales nearby and they weighed in at the ‘loose’ price of £0.65p I tried several others with the same result.
So, a 50% mark up for the bag? Many old people will find it easier to take the bagged bananas rather than having to cope with bagging and weighing. Thus, people less likely to be able to pay more are ripped off on such basic items. Shame.

Hilary Cooper says:
27 November 2010

The ‘mistakes’ made by supermarkets are seldom to the advantage of the customer. Like banks and some other businesses they delibrerately make things complicated to confuse us and thereby make more profits. The customer should be renamed the ‘victim’. Of course businesses have to make a profit but honestly and without trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Personally I prefer the discount supermarkets – Aldi springs to mind – no display, no special offers, no reward schemes. Just good quality products (many hardware products with three year guarantees) at reasonable prices. Let’s support them.

Congratulations Hilary, you’re our Comment of the Week and you’ll find this comment featured on our homepage!

JIll Davies says:
28 November 2010

Just found another misleading guidance at Tesco. Have just bought a leg of pork weighing 2.12kg with the guidance that it serves 4. This is clearly an attempt by Tesco to get unwary shoppers to purchase more food than is necessary

It’s more old fashioned than it lets on; their “head of guidance” probably hasn’t gone metric yet.

In fairness to the Supermarkets (not something I find myself saying very often), on a number of the “95p each, any 2 for £2”-type examples in your gallery. The offer applies to a range of products. I assume that buying the product shown with one of the other (more expensive) choices may well take you above the “2 for” price.

That said, some of the examples shown are just unjustifiable.

Super Consumer says:
6 December 2010

I feel the Supermarket’s current frozen turkey pricing is anything but fair and is an abuse of their customer’s loyalty. The policy of selling turkeys by a weight range rather than per Kg for the weight purchased is what I am referring to. I know this is not new and it baulks me everytime I buy a frozen chicken but then the cost penalty is much less.
It wouldn’t be so bad if just occationally the larger sizes are available but bad luck, or whatever, this never seems the case. How fair is it for us to pay the same price and yet get up to 15% less for our money? If I were to get to the till and offer them an envelope that contained somewhere between 85 and 100% of the value of the goods would they accept it? If they got between 850ml and 1000ml in a litre bottle would they think this fair? If they got between 8.5 and 10 litres of fuel when they were paying for 10 litres would they think that fair? No, then why do they expect us to accept a 1Kg difference in the weight of a turkey for the same price? I know the price per Kg is calculated at the lower weight but sorry this cuts no ice with me when I’m standing at their freezer knowing I can have an 8Kg turkey for my £24 but am only getting 7Kg (13.75% less in this example).
I think it about time we stood up to them and make them see we won’t be taken for a ride like this. I did write to Justin King at Sainsburys via their e-mail but am still waiting for a response.

Martin Browning says:
20 July 2012

Ive noticed many misleading prices in Tesco over the last months and have complained several times only for a manager to say its a mistake and they are sorry . Surely if these are mistakes they would be rectified , yet they still continue , suggesting a deliberate policy to exploit . I saw the Watchdog account of the investigation where Tesco again claimed they were “mistakes” . However i have just returned from a shopping trip to find they are still doing the same . It cannot be a mistake but a deliberate policy to misinform and profit . These supermarkets now appear to have a monopoly on trade , as there are very few alternatives in some towns .and they take full advantage of the consumer .
Perhaps its about time we began to boycott these profiteers .

Mike Fletcher says:
26 January 2013

Tesco online are displaying a pack of 8 cadbury creme eggs priced at £2.95 BOGOF, however it says 6 pack, although compared to the 12 pack, the price per weight is correct for an 8 pack. When challenged they refused to honor the deal as they had a mistake on their site.