CHOICE membership

Longitudinal study on grocery prices and sizes

Those of us who have been around for a while have noticed the steady reduction in the package size of many grocery items - without this being reflected in price. While this suggestion may be a little late in the day, I suggest that CHOICE is in the right position to commence a long-term (10 years to begin with?) review of this particular trend along with pricing trends.

Such a review would shed some light on the lengths to which manufacturers go to wring the reduce production costs without changing the cost to consumers.

The review would presumably focus on a representative ‘basket’ of items such as is already price compared, but in this instance would look at volume as well as price. The interest would be not so much in which grocery chain is cheapest, but in what happens to volume vs. price over time.

Thoughts?

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Great idea. The “bracket creep” of many products is a form of price gouging IMO.

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It is for those who cannot be bothered to read unit pricing or who cannot do basic arithmetic. How old do you have to be before you understand that the size and shape of a packet does not tell you what is in it or that prices go up over time? How sophisticated do you have to be to understand that increasing the price per pack is not the only way to increase the price per unit?

I see no point in making the effort to demonstrate again what is already very well known. If such a study was done the outcome would be a lot of people saying to each other “we’ve known it all along, ain’t ut terrible”. It would not actually make any difference to the market. It would not stop some people reaching for the product they usually buy without considering if it is still value for money (or ever was). Having new statistics is not worth the cost of collecting them if you are not going to change anything because of them. I would rather Choice put their efforts into studies that bring new information to us.

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The idea is of actually putting some detail on the bones of what we know and actually getting a picture of changes by product category and not simply ‘yes, it happens and we know it happens’.

I would be interested to hear, for instance, what the average size of a Cornetto ice cream was 20 years ago - with money on it being significantly larger. Unit pricing does not provide details over time, and pricing a ‘basket of goods’ without details of how those products change over time is only half the story.

If you are aware of some place that can provide more than anecdotes I would be keen to know about it - otherwise the whole point of consumer advocacy is going out and getting the data to assist us as consumers.

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Assist us to do what? What decision might hang upon the outcome of obtaining such hard data?

I cannot see how statistics on this would help the individual shop better or allow some collective campaign to be run or change manufacturer behaviour. Regardless of the outcome, marketdroids will still attempt to make a buck out of disguising price rises from those who don’t care to look into it and those shoppers will keep paying this form of lazy tax. :man_shrugging:

I think that Choice could use this information to highlight sneaky changes to product sizing or pricing. A recent example would be Toblerone’s changes.

If for example those sneaky ‘reduction in product content and keeping the price constant’ are publicised, then perhaps companies will be more honest in disclosing the changes, and even better, think twice before acting in underhanded ways.

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I very much doubt it. There will be an initial reaction and a fair bit of hand wringing and name calling by a minority. The campaign will not gather any real momentum. The makers will go quiet about it for a while, interest will wane, then it will be back to business as usual. Any attempt to revive it will be met with … nothing.

We all know it goes on, collecting statistics will not reveal anything new it will just show the depth of our collective indifference as we have done nothing about it since the 1 penny chocolate got so thin it was hardly a mouthful.

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You may be right; but I am an optimist and hope that if we work at it, things can be improved. I believe it is better to have tried and failed than not tried at all.

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Often true, but in the world of limited resources and so many, many causes one has to pick the bigger battles, and then pick the ones one can win something about. With Choice considering if and how to solicit donations and so on, would making an archival history of price rises over time for whatever reason contribute to better outcomes for consumers as compared to, eg testing another product or taking on another ‘voice’ advocacy?

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If this was limited to the standard products used in the basket when Choice compares Supermarkets, perhaps simply tabulating the weight or volume of each item, or unit prices might be sufficient.

To what end though given the mix of products?

For any discretionary products is it a worthwhile goal at all? We all have our favourites. A simple list on the mobile or pack shots is all we each need to track our own preferred products.

If only we could all wean ourselves of so many of the products that are processed products. One kilo of flour will always be one kilo of flour and one kilo of sweet potatoes one kilo of …

We are yet to see the miracle of Toblerone sold by the kilo. $14.29/kg on special. The wonders of unit pricing solved this one.

P.S.
Definition of “Discretionary food products”
Anything not found under the bench in the MasterChef Kitchen, or purchased unprocessed?

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