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Per each or per unit of weight? How should some food products sold loose from bulk be priced and the quantity be marked on packs?


#1

I’m interested in views about the type of measurement used to show the price of food products being sold loose from bulk (for example avocados) or to show the amount in pre-packages (for example biscuits).

The Trade Measurement laws currently allow some products to be offered for sale on the basis of count or weight,and for the quantity of some packaged products to be marked in terms of count or weight.

As a result, retailers and packers often use more than one type of measurement for different items of the same product and this makes it very difficult/impossible for shoppers to use unit prices to compare values.

Examples of this include, when some packaged biscuits are unit priced per each and some per 100g, and when some avocados sold loose from bulk, or in prepacks, are unit priced per each and some per kg.

There are some advantages for consumers from pricing products, or marking packs, by count rather than by weight, for example it can be easier to know exactly how many items are being bought. However, there are also disadvantages for consumers, for example if item size varies significantly.

On balance, especially to improve price transparency and value comparisons, at the moment I think it would be best for consumers if as many products as possible were sold, and packs marked, by weight not count, and that wherever possible a retailer should only use one type of measurement for all items of a product type.

What do you think?


#2

G’day Ian, One of my observations at Coles and Woolies is that they have been known to sometimes sell the same produce or deli item by weight, and other times by count. They do this to compete with the “shop across the street” by obfuscating the real cost of the items and as you wrote, making comparisons near impossible.

Example - some weeks a kransky at one could be 1/2 price, $X each, and across the road regularly priced at $Y/kg and vice versa. They are not the identical kransky and some of us would clearly prefer one over the other, some don’t care, and still others like the variety, so it is not just about price.

I weighed a few when buying by each a few times to see the $/kg, and there was usually not much difference between the each and $/kg offers, beyond the randomness of any single kransky. The difference was in the marketing and enticement of “the deal”.

The utility of buying a kransky is an each, but to compare value is $/kg, but a small kransky might require 2 rather than one to satiate one’s appetite, and perhaps like tea bags. Perhaps some products should be labelled with both each and $/kg prices to cover utility and comparable costs.


#4

Hi Ian

I prefer buying by weight as you suggested.

When buying fruit and veg it is hard to accurately compare the value of prepackaged products with loose products because of the packaging.

Firstly, how much does the packaging weigh vs the flimsy plastic bag the loose produce is in? Secondly, the quality of the product in packaging is sometimes not as good as the loose items, but the flaws are hard to detect through the packaging. And thirdly, the weight of some individual fruit and grocery items can vary hugely. For example, capsicums and lettuce.

Without a standard measurement, that is weight, how can we tell if say six prepacked apples charged on a per item basis are a better deal that six loose ones charged on weight, without weighing the prepacked ones? Same goes for avocadoes. Is it cheaper to buy loose heads of corn or a prepacked in cellophane chopped up bits of corn sold on a per tray basis?

When it comes to manufactured lines, the same applies. Selling by weight will also prevent the surreptitious reduction in the content’s item sizes routinely hidden by the packaging.

So yes, there should only be measurement by weight, and that should be consistent across all the product lines.


#5

Thanks for the comments.

Kransky (sausages) are not on the NMI’s list of products approved for sales by number!

More generally, this is a complex issue, and there are as you say, trade offs between pluses and minuses of selling/marking per each or weight.

Showing the selling price both per each and by weight with loose from bulk sales, and the number and the weight on pre-packs, would certainly be an improvement. However, I expect retailers and packers would oppose.


#6

Thanks for the comments.

Re para 3:

  1. the weight shown on a pack should be net of the packaging.
  2. possible quality differences definitely influence decisions on whether to buy loose or in prepacks, but am trying to keep them out of this discussion and just focus here on the count versus weight info issue which is common to loose and prepacks.
  3. yes, the weight of some l items can vary greatly, I would add cucumbers, avocados and kiwi fruit to those yo mentioned. OTHER PEOPLE MAY WANT TO ADD MORE EXAMPLES. And when they are loose from bulk often only the small ones are left after many shoppers have been there.

I agree that selling/marking by weight rather than count has many advantages. However, we also need to recognise that some shoppers will prefer per each. And for a variety of reasons, including the cost of weighing or providing weighing equipment, some retailers may prefer count.


#7

Hi Ian

Thanks for your comments.

Based on my experience, nett weight is not always displayed on prepackaged fruit & veg. This is why I raised the issue.

Another example of difficulty in comparison is in bakery products, where individual weights can vary considerably even within one product. For example how do you compare loose croissant or bread buns to packaged ones where physical size is not necessarily the determining factor?

In my earlier comments I was thinking just about the larger supermarkets, not small shops. I agree that in some circumstances per each pricing may be the go, for example in a small bakery, where products are all sold by count, not weight. I think the most important thing is the consistency of using just one measure, weight or number, along product lines so comparisons can be made.


#8

Re nett weight not being shown on prepackaged fruit and veg:

  1. if the weight is shown on the pack the TM laws require that it should be nett of packaging. (NMI is currently focusing on compliance with this as part of a special exercise monitoring compliance with the TM laws by the F&V industry)
  2. however, if the product is approved by NMI for sale per piece and there are less than 9 pieces in a transparent pack neither the number in the pack or the nett weight need be displayed on the pack.(so this might be why you are not seeing any weight on some packs.)

Re: bakery products and small and large shops. I think you sum up the situation well. Use of only one type of measure (weight or number) for a class of product at a retailer would certainly be a step forward but not easy to achieve, esp if some products are bought in.

.


#9

This is from Costco. Perhaps an American twist, regardless it would make sense if everything were so labelled, but. Look at the package sizes and the ‘per unit’ shown.


#10

We received the below example of ‘per ea’ unit pricing from a Facebook follower recently. With the value of this item and the way the number is displayed, perhaps a ‘per 100’ scale would be beneficial for comparitive purposes.


#11

This is how the same product online is presented:

image

Maybe any items where there is less than 100, it should be per unit (each) and anything over 100 should be per 100?

Having a price for this one say of $9.50/100 may confuse some to how many items are in the product…the label displaying two different quantities (40pk and /100) …I guess some may think there are 100?

I have no issue with providing unit pricing for each unit or for each bag in this example…but the labelling should have possibly used two decimal places rather than one. The online price has two.


#12

@BrendanMays, I suppose the other advantage of an ‘each price’ is it gives one the cost each time one uses it. For these bags, one might look at alternatives if the $0.10 per use is seen as expensive.

The bags are also used one at a time.


#13

I can see why the ‘per ea’ price is useful in some applications. In the above situation, there should be an additional numerals to allow effective comparison. Using only 10c increments as in the above example creates some issues in this regard


#14

It is not obvious it is a $0.10 increment; as it appears a $0.01 increment. The example unit price is $0.095 each rounded up by convention. One has to wonder if an additional decimal place is warranted and specifically how important a half cent might be in decision making, or if the system should mandate 3 decimal places - but then someone would likely ask for 4.

The rationality of how far to go is about quantity, so @phb’s suggestion about pricing each in small quantities, but then 100’s pricing for 100+ makes good sense.


#15

Maybe how the product is used may also be considered. For example, if it is used one at a time (say a a mop bucket set of three buckets, pair of socks in a week (7) pack or a 4 light bulbs…or in this case a plastic bag), then price per unit/each should be okay.

If the item is used in multiple quantities, toilet paper or paper towels are good examples, then these could be in say price per 100 units which in the case would be sheets.

In Australia we still have cents…haven’t dropped the cents and lowest currency unit being decacents, two decimal places should be displayed.


#16

The mandatory Unit Pricing Code administered by the ACCC caters for this type of product.
If the product is is supplied by number on a roll (or in a package) and there are 41 or more items, the unit price must be given per 100 items (if 40 or less, the unit of measure must be per item).
BUT, if there are rolls/packages containing different amounts, the unit of measure to be used for all the rolls/packages must be that most often required by the Code.
So, in this case if this is the only roll pack size sold, per each is OK. However,if there are more packs with 41 more items than with 40 or less, the unit price for all should be per 100.
The Code also specifies that if if unit price is less than $1 the unit price must be displayed either in dollars and whole cents (e.g. $0.10) or in whole cents (e.g. 10 cents)
So, in my opinion displaying the unit price as $0.1 is not Code compliant, and whether using per each is would depend on how many of each size are on offer.


#17

On a slightly different note, who else remember the news articles around 20 or so years ago about the guy who was working for the US Federal Government in a role in material stores inventory. I think it may have been for the US Army.

He would take the cost of a packet of items and divide it by the number of items, and as the computer system would not accept fractions of a cent, he would round up the cost of each item.

The system thus listed the value of the stock holding to cover the “cost price” and he pocketed the difference.

Great little earner until he was caught.


#18

Good points.
The main problem I have with per each rather than per 100 is that for some products the price per each can be very small (less than 10 cents) and differences the unit price per sheet can get lost in rounding.

Also, although they are exactly the same, it has been shown that many shoppers take less account of a unit price difference between products of say 1 or 2 cents per each than of $1 or $2 per per 100.


#19

Not a surprise, and in the same psychological basket as $9.99 being less than $10.00.


#20

I struggled to identify the best thread for this one, a classic ‘answer’ to the tea bag problem so have posted it here. By weight or count? It appears Woolies has solved the problem by randomly using each, side by side, on the same product, different flavours.

This is but a small subset of the display featuring different flavours shown per 100g and per each almost randomly. :roll_eyes:


#21

I wonder if they are doing that deliberately or if it is just an accident? I’ll check it out to see if there is a pattern. I expect there will not be. I’ve always thought that for these types of products, where shoppers have different preferences for either the unit price per unit of weight or by number, that it would be beneficial to show both on price labels. However, others I have consulted think that this may be confusing and excessive information.
Any views?