Supermarket unit prices - unclear and inconsistentConsumers left struggling to compare food prices

17 November 2011

Unclear supermarket prices

Supermarket unit prices are unclear and inconsistent

Unclear and inconsistent use of unit prices in supermarkets is preventing cash-strapped consumers from being able to work out which products are cheapest.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: 'Unit prices should be a useful tool for people to compare food prices and choose the best value product, which is crucial when we're all looking to save money.'

Which? thinks it should be much more straightforward for consumers to compare like-for-like at the supermarket.

Consistent food pricing

Which? wants clear, consistent food pricing where the unit price is prominent and easy to read; consistent units used on all products; and multi-buys and promotions to show the unit price.

Our online survey found only around half of people think it's easy to work out which product is better value for money by comparing unit prices which vary form shop to shop.

Value for money

In a separate study, our supermarket shoppers visited branches of the main supermarkets and found unit prices often not being shown for multi-buys or promotions. Different units were also being used for varieties of the same product - such as per 100g and per kg. As a result, comparing food prices like-for-like can be difficult.

Some of the most confusing examples of unit pricing were found on fruit and vegetables. This included:

  • Pre-packed red onions priced at £1.35 for 3 or 45p per item next to loose onions priced at 95p per kg
  • A seven pack of mini bananas with a selling price of 99p and a unit price of 14.1p each next to loose bananas priced at 68p per kg; and
  • Red peppers in 500g packs on sale for £2.09 or £4.18 per kg next to packs of 3 mixed peppers priced at £1.65 or 56p each.

Retailers and government must act

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: 'We want to see retailers and the government make urgent improvements so that consumers can compare like-for-like in the supermarket.'

We will be investigating this issue further over the coming months, and we're asking the public to help us name and shame the worst offenders.

More on this:

  • Angered by confusing unit pricing? Join the debate on Which? Conversation
  • Caught on camera? Share your examples of confusing unit pricing and what you can do to help.
  • Find out why we're campaigning on food issues