Don't be fooled by these supermarket packaging tricks, says Which?We reveal the tactics used to persuade you to buy

14 November 2014

McVities Lights digestives

We think it’s misleading to call products 'light' when they’re still high in fat, sugar or saturated fat

A new Which? investigation reveals the packaging tricks and tactics used by supermarkets and manufacturers to tempt consumers to buy products.

We’ve investigated the techniques that supermarkets and manufacturers use on their product packaging, many of which have been reported to us by Which? members.

Read on to discover some of the top tactics we've uncovered - and then click to see which supermarket was cheapest this month for our comparison basket of groceries.

The full feature on 10 packaging tricks to watch out for is in the December issue of Which?. Which? members can view this online, or if you're not a member, you can sign up for a £1 trial.

1. Copycat products

Many supermarket own-brand products borrow heavily from the look and feel of well-known brands, which confuses consumers into accidentally buying them.We removed the brand names from ginger biscuits and asked Which? members to identify the branded biscuits. Two in five (39%) identified the Lidl version as the brand instead of McVitie’s, showing how similar the packaging can be.

2. Not so ‘light’ products

We found food products labelled as ‘light’ that may not be the healthy option many consumers think, for example we found McVitie’s Light Digestives contained 4.5g more sugar per 100g than the standard biscuits.

3. Veggies beware

Surprisingly we found fish ingredients in items from Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce to Kia-Ora and Lilt, making them unsuitable for vegetarians. Don’t assume a product is meat free unless it’s labelled ‘Suitable for vegetarians’.

4. Not what it says on the tin

We found several examples of fruit drinks where the main ingredient is missing from the name, for example Innocent Kids Cherry & Strawberry Smoothies which only contain 18% cherries and strawberries, with the main ingredients being – cheaper – apples and grapes.

Lynx gift set - packaging tricks

Some toiletry gift sets offer such poor value for money that you’re effectively paying for the box it comes in

5. Gift set rip-off

We found a Lynx gift set costing £6.50 contained a deodorant that normally costs £3 and shower gel that’s £2. At the time of our investigation both products were also on offer, making the gift set an even worse deal.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 'We’ve found packaging tactics across the supermarkets that appear designed to mislead customers. Supermarkets and manufacturers need to play fair to avoid confusing consumers.

'We’re campaigning for simple food pricing to make it easy for consumers to compare products and find the best deal.'

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