Consumer Manipulation - Are supermarkets retraining us to buy prepackaged?

The Fruit and Veg aisle of the supermarkets have seen an increase in the use of pre-packaged products.

For consumers this may add convenience, but at the same time can be seen to be reducing choice (quantity) and adding unwanted packaging. Contents can also be more difficult to discern or assess for quality.

For the store it may reduce product handling costs, speed up checkout scanning and reduce the frequency of small quantity purchases - overheads. Is it a step towards automated checkouts or other technology that adds up your basket as you pick and load. IE Checkout free shopping.

In the F&V aisle, assuming one is keen to feed the family unit pricing or simple maths says the pre-pack is cheaper if buying potatoes in this example.


The prepacked savings?

I’ve noted other examples of products such as green beans and carrots where the opposite is true, hence convenience comes at a premium.

Am I being unnecessarily paranoid?

Is a similar trend evident elsewhere with products such as those found in the deli (eg specialty cheeses) and the meat aisles? IE less over the counter and more from the cold area display units.


It looks more like they could be manipulating us to buy prepackaged with the cleanliness of that loose potato display!


It is about minimising waste. When consumers are faced with loose items, they select individual fruit and vegetable products wth little variation to what is considered the norm… not to big, not too small, not an unusual shape, even colour etc. This means products outside what is seen as the norm aren’t often sold becoming waste.

In bags, one doesn’t have the opportunity to avoid fruit or vegetable that are not what they consider is the norm, as prepackaged items can contain a broader variation to that which would occur if one self selected the produce.

This means less waste in the farm (from sorting out those which aren’t the norm…and in the supermarket from being left on the self.

Less waste generated in production and retail means cheaper prices. Loose fruit and vegetables causes more waste = higher shelf prices.

The amount of food waste in the home is also unlikely to change as most consumers will use the slightly out if norm fruit and vegetables as they have them at home to consume and have paid for them.

The downside while such waste is potentially reduced, it causes a different type of waste - packaging.


That is sure part of it. I suspect the ideal for Colesworths would be no loose produce plus 100% either self-serve checkout or online order. The two systems go together. It will be interesting to see if they can persuade us all to go down that path and how.

Which is how it was before self-service, the shop assistant would fill your paper bag and would be sure to toss out anything rotten but to include a mix of sizes, colours and shapes.

I liken these trends to the diminishing availability of leaf tea in supermarkets. It is quite possible that in a decade only specialist shops will stock it. Loose produce could go the same way. All for our own convenience of course!


The last time I bought a bag of onions, half of them turned out to be rotting-this wasn’t obvious from the outside of the bag, and I really wasn’t expecting this with onions. It’s put me off buying bagged stuff. At least with what’s loose, I can check each piece out better. I’m really trying to buy only what I need, so I’m not wasting at home.


I had the same experience recently. The tag on the bag said “I’m perfect” and then went on about various sizes and shapes do not matter. A little misdirection there.


I bought mine from the regular stock because there was no loose stock at all available on the day. I have bought avocados from the “I’m perfect” or similar stock, (the bag was cheaper than regular loose stock) and they were very hit and miss. I don’t care what shape or size my fruit & veges are, I’m more concerned about bruises & fruit fly bite. Very hard to discern in pre-bagged stock.


Another consideration is “pandemic”. This works in two different ways.

  1. Loose F&V can be handled dozens of times by random customers before you pick it up.

  2. Loose F&V (in plain bag) can end up being touched by the checkout chick. But see later.

Another consideration is market segmentation and product discrimination. By packaging up “organic” X, they can charge much more than for regular X. Once all F&V are prepackaged, there is scope for more of that e.g. even varieties that are, for example, unique to Coles or unique to Woolworths (while actually being identical).

You can sort of see that happening already with bananas, for example, a) regular b) red tip c) lady finger d) Kids Pack e) organic. Imagine where the marketing could go if you can’t buy loose. There could be more discrimination and less verifiability i.e. potentially more bogosity.

You can put loose F&V in plain bag through a self-serve checkout (but it is likely a slower process e.g. you have to type the first few letters of each F&V item).

I wonder how long before the self-serve checkout has “fruital recognition” so that you don’t have to do the search. (For that matter how long before the regular checkout does that?)


I hope you returned the bad onions on your next trip to the supermarket. They might get the message then. Make sure you receive a docket and keep it. Onions and potatoes used to last for months if stored correctly in a cool dark place. ….now they even have a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date. Ridiculous!


I have been wondering about that at the checkouts that have humans behind them, perhaps robots will do better.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. :wink: :upside_down_face:

Why would one not buy pre-pack.
the little amount of packaging is irrelevant to the convenience.
Just recycle the packaging.
Another reason could be that supermarkets are moving away from customer service, check-outs, etc,
having to be responsible for the quality of the product.
It all comes in pre-packed by the farms, hence no responsibility at the sales level.
Just like feeding Cattle!!

Woolworths has this already, you are asked to place your produce on the scale, then a selection comes up on screen as an overhead camera guesses what you have bought, it is pretty accurate, guess it alerts staff to people putting mushrooms through as apples, or similar.


Totally agree. I had the same problem with bagged potatoes and onions. I prefer to pick my own thank you Colesworths.

I know what you mean. That’s why I now refuse to buy this type of item from the supermarkets. I either use my local fruits and vegetables shop or go to farmers markets. You might be surprised that they really don’t cost anymore especially when you consider your paying for the supermarket packaging plus you are supporting small businesses.


This happened to me but it was potatoes. I was so outraged I found the receipt and took them back. They gave me a full refund. I’ve also found mouldy oranges in those net bags.


The extra packaging is not a little amount and irrelevant when thousands of people are buying the bagged products daily. The TV series War on Waste hasn’t seemed to have had an effect on supermarkets and the public. Hardly anyone recycles plastic bag packaging in the bins provided in supermarkets. I do. I have a house cleaning business and I see no-one recycling soft plastics, and very few even recycle their plastic that goes in the recycle bin. What I see is a half hearted effort by some, with some recyclable packets still in the main bin. I told one customer about the ad on TV saying cans and bottles must be loose and not in plastic bags in the recycle bin, and if they are, they won’t get recycled. He was bagging up his bottles and cans and seemed interested in that info, but is still putting recyclables in a big plastic bag in his yellow top bin. Go figure?

Single or couple households don’t want to buy prepacked produce they can’t consume before it spoils. Definitely still need loose available. Also we want to be able to check the freshness of what we’re buying, not hidden in a bag. Fruit and veg shops are the alternative.


Good point. Vendors will tend to make the bag bigger so to sell more product.

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My email to Aldi 7/6/22

Today I purchased 750g of red and green Capsicum in a net, for $6.79 that is approx $9.05 per kg from Aldi at Moonee Beach, NSW

Today I purchased two loose red capsicums, total weight 376g for $2.97 that is $7.90 per kg. from Coles at Moonee Beach, NSW

Your catalogue for ‘Super Savers’ limited stock, 1-7June, 2022 has Duo pack, one red,
one green, 375g pack for $4.99 that is $13.31 per kg. This pack is particularly wasteful and non eco friendly because it has a cardboard tray and a silly label encased in plastic.

Shame on you Aldi!!!

Please get your buyers to get their act together and forget about fancy packaging and labelling for things that we can clearly see.

And to charge $13.31 per kg is disgraceful! You must think consumers are stupid.