Supermarket Shoppers Often Use Grocery Unit Pricing to Compare Value

An exploratory survey of Australian grocery shoppers has shown that almost all reported that they use unit pricing to some degree to make value comparisons between products, and most said they use unit pricing frequently and for several types of value comparisons.

The on-line survey of 104 members/supporters of Choice (Australian Consumers Association) was conducted by the Queensland Consumers Association (QCA) and looked at five types of value comparisons.

QCA spokesperson Ian Jarratt says this is the probably the first information ever published on exactly what value comparisons consumers use unit pricing for, and the first to look at use with products sold loose from bulk as well as pre-packaged.

The 3 most frequently undertaken value comparisons were of:

  •  The same brand’s pack sizes (89%)
  • Regular and special offer prices (88%)
  • Different brands and pack sizes (84%).

The 2 value comparisons used slightly less, but still very often, were of:

  •  Products packaged and loose from bulk (78%
  • Simple and complex packaging (70%).

QCA says that although use of unit pricing by Choice members/supporters is likely to be above average, the results are very relevant to unit pricing policy/provision issues and to future research.

For example, the high level of use to compare products sold loose from bulk and in pre-packages highlights the need for uniformity/consistency, in the measurement units used for unit pricing products when sold loose from bulk (regulated by Trade Measurement laws) and when in pre-packages (regulated by Trade Measurement and Unit Pricing laws).

To ensure it is as easy as possible for all consumers to use unit pricing, retailers also need to be required to provide consumer focused unit pricing, and there has to be effective monitoring of retailer compliance with unit pricing and trade measurement regulations.

Consumer focused unit pricing includes ensuring that unit prices are displayed1 effectively and the consistent use of consumer-friendly measurement units, especially the type (weight, volume, etc.) and size (kg, 100g, 10g, etc.).

Currently, much grocery unit pricing provided by retailers is not sufficiently consumer friendly, mainly because it is not easy enough for shoppers to notice, read, understand and use.

QCA also says more research is required on this important, but neglected, consumer shopping tool including on:

  • Other possible value comparisons such as between, products sold loose from bulk, products in random measure pre-packages, products loose from bulk and in random measure pre-packages, and between retailers.
  • Use between different types of products, for example food and non-food products, luxury and non-luxury products, and high and low priced products.
  • Use for other purposes, such as to indicate quality.

Click here to read QCA’s full report.