Consumers have enjoyed the benefits of compulsory grocery unit pricing for five years. CHOICE and other consumer groups celebrated unit pricing’s birthday last week with “priced by the gram” cupcakes and is now calling on supermarkets to voluntarily improve unit pricing because of how useful it is for the average shopper.

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“Unit pricing lets you compare the value of different packet sizes and brands without a calculator. It simply states how much you pay, for example, per 100 grams of each product. By helping you compare prices easily, unit pricing can save you hundreds of dollars off your grocery bill each year,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

For example, Coles online sells two brands of white sugar in ten different sizes. The unit prices quickly reveal that at $0.09 cents per 100 grams, the 2kg bag of Coles White Sugar is the best value and the CSR Single Serve White Sugar Sticks is the most expensive at $1.98 per 100 grams. In this case, a savvy consumer would save 183% by using unit prices.”

After the lobbying efforts of consumer groups, particularly the Queensland Consumers Association (QCA), the Federal Government introduced compulsory unit pricing in 2009.

“Unit pricing helps consumers cut through the marketing to find the best price but it isn’t perfect. It currently only has to be displayed in large supermarkets and not small supermarkets, hardware stores or chemists. Often unit prices are presented in small font making it hard for consumers to compare products.”

“We want all supermarkets to make unit prices larger and easier for consumers to read. They also need to use consistent comparisons that make sense for each product.”

“We often see problems where similar products are given an inconsistent unit price. For example, Coles gives two different unit prices for coffee. Coffee bags are priced per unit but instant coffee is priced per 100 grams. When we compare using a consistent measure it’s easy to spot the cheaper product. The Robert Timms Coffee Bags cost $6.46 per 100 grams compared to the much cheaper $4 per 100 grams for Robert Timms Instant Coffee. Coles should pick a single price comparison for coffee and across all product types.”

In May 2014 QCA released the results of its research covering independent supermarkets in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, and South Australia which found that far too often the unit price was difficult to notice or read, not provided for some items and used a wrong or inconsistent unit of measure.

At the 25 independent supermarkets visited, all had unit prices insufficiently legible or prominent, in 76% of supermarkets unit prices were not provided for some items, and in 68% of supermarkets an incorrect unit of measure was used for some or all items of a product type.