CHOICE membership

UNIT PRICE OR SELLING PRICE? Which do you use most when buying pre-packaged grocery items?



You have raised an difficult issue.
Firstly, grocery retailers required to provide unit pricing do not have to for alcohol (or tobacco) products. This is mainly because when the Code was being developed in 2008/9 it was considered that requiring provision of unit price would not be in line with health policy objectives.
Secondly, any retailer can voluntarily provide unit pricing for alcohol. However, I am not aware of any that do. I’d be interested to know about any that do.
The only example of unit pricing of alcohol I have is this advertisement showing the unit price (per 700 mL) of 750 mL bottles of gin and whiskey. Presumably this is to facilitate comparison of value with the many types of gin and whiskey sold in 700 mL bottles.
I guess providing the unit price would be more useful for some products than others, for example most bottles of wine are 750 mL and this is the required unit of measure for unit pricing wine in the UK.


Yes, I agree that it is important to look at nutritional information as well as the unit price


An important point. I always stress that unit pricing can be used to compare the value of more than just products (fresh/processed/etc) in constant measure packages i.e. also products sold loose from bulk and in random measure packages. For example, fresh green beans may be available loose from bulk, in constant or random weight packages or if frozen is OK in constant weight packs in the freezer. I’ll omit canned green beans).
The choices within a store will vary greatly. In Australia, it seems to me that so far there has not been much branding of loose and prepackaged fresh fruit and vegetables. So there is not much within store choice but as you rightly say there may be between store choice. Also, of course there is always the within store opportunity to compare a product with another that is similar or an acceptable substitute e.g. potato and sweet potato.


The ABS monitors changes in pack size and uses these to adjust its price and other statistics.


This is an important issue. I’d be very interested to know about any such supermarkets that do not provide unit pricing. BTW the Code requires voluntary providers to comply with the same requirements (display, units of measure, etc. as mandatory providers.


Always check the unit price to see if I am really getting the cheapest sized product. Then check for made in Australia where possible.


An excellent and important question. I prefer to know the price of loose fruit and vegetables per kg so that I can make better value comparisons. And, if the product is sold loose from bulk I can then choose the number if pieces i want.

I also prefer packaged F&V to be sold in packs that show the total weight. However, knowing how may items are in a pack (by them being countable in a transparent pack or the pack showing the number) is also very helpful. It is complicated!

Unfortunately, the current trade measurement laws provide retailers with great flexibility which can result in great inconsistency within and between retailers.


Prepackaged is when you have to accept what is in the package in terms of quality and quantity. Regarding quantity, all the packages may contain the same amount (eg 1kg packages of apples) or the amount per pack may vary. With the latter, unless the pack is clear and the number of items is less than 9, the total weight or number of items must shown on the pack.


I agree. That is why comparing the unit prices is much more accurate way to asses value that relying on “rules of thumb” such as that loose will always be better value than packaged.


Unit price. It’s such a great change from when I had to do it myself and hasn’t decreased my mental ability yet.


Unit price always, IF there are equal products available. Do a rough check of the calculations, though, as sometimes they are hilariously wrong.


When there even is a price tag I use the unit price to compare like products, but don’t assume that they’re accurate. I’ve noticed a couple of unit prices at Coles that were wrong.


It is not helping the consumer - evaluating price value of items sold by “each”, “bunch”, etc (usually food items) is a nightmare. Many stores these days don’t have scales in the fruit & vege section for customers to use - so you cannot measure the weight in store to calculate price per weight unit. :rage:
Stores don’t seem to care about the inconsistencies of their practices - in the same big store within a metre of each other you may see a bunch of beetroot for price A per bunch and also see loose beetroot at price B per kg.

Items sold prepackaged in containers such as “bag” or “tray” often have the weight of contents printed on the container or sticker on the container - so we are able to calculate the price per weight unit. But we need to keep bringing the ones that don’t to the attention of the government enforcement agency (ACCC).


One area I find inconsistent re unit pricing is the deli/salad bars in the big stores.

I don’t believe Coles’ containers are necessarily the same volume as they were last year, nor the same as Woolworth’s containers - which makes comparison by price per S or M or L volume container meaningless and price per weight essential.

Yet the price signs of a number of items in this area are by whatever size container you ask the sales assistant to fill up for you. (somedays you get a person skilled at squashing a lot in and getting the lid on securely, sometimes you get a person who prefers to put less in, sometimes …)
At times I have said “I would like to buy X or Y, what X’s price per kg is X and Y’s price per kg?” and the sales assistant looks nonplussed and points to the sign for 3 prices for S, M and L volume containers for X, and the sign for 3 prices for S, M and L volume containers for Y.
I explain that I don’t know what weight of X fits in to any of their containers, ditto what weight of Y, and therefore I am asking what the price per kg is.
Sometimes I have to go into mathematics-science teacher mode to explain that volume is not the same as weight, etc. It is always a big deal - sales assistant has to go find someone who can find out the answer; somtimes there is nobody in the store who knows the answer.


Good point and I agree. Having the same, or a similar product, sold both per each and per kg makes it virtually impossible for shoppers to accurately and easily compare value for money.

However, this problem (and when some packs shown the weight, others the number, and others no information - when there are less than 9 items in the transparent pack) arises from the provisions of the trade measurement, NOT the unit pricing, regulations.

I have unsuccessfully raised this matter, and the problems it causes for shoppers, many times already with the National Measurement Institute (NMI).

There will be another opportunity soon to raise it again during the current review of the National Measurement Laws. When the relevant consultation starts I’ll put an item about it here and hopefully you and others will participate.


Good point and thanks for mentioning it.

If scales are provided interested shoppers can weigh items/pieces sold loose per each or in packages without weight info and then calculate their own unit prices if they prefer unit pricing based on weight not number. However, I suspect that not many would do that.

So, I favour greater requirements for retailers to show the weight of products, if necessary in addition to showing the number of items/pieces…

However, I do see benefit in retailers who sell products per each or in packages which show only the number of items/pieces or no quantity info, providing scales.


This is a trade measurement, not a unit pricing, issue.

I have long argued that as a minimum when products are sold in containers of different volume, (eg small, medium and large) the volume of each should be indicated. That way shoppers could at least be able to work out and compare their own unit prices. However, ideally the retailer should also shown the price per unit of volume, such as per 100mL.

BTW i recognize that showing the price per unit of volume for products normally sold by weight (eg olives and potato salad) will not help comparison with theses products when sold by weight loose or in packs sold by weight. However, it would greatly improve comparisons between the different container sizes.

All the above is relevant not only to products sold at delis/salad bars but also to soft drinks, ice cream, etc currently sold loose in different sized containers.


I always use the unit price ( $ per gram etc )


Is it okay for a store (a big store) to put price per unit weight for product X in one jar size by brand B as “per 100g” and right next door put price per unit weight for product X in another jar size by brand B as “per kg” ???
Of course they also do this for product X and brand C.

Which is deliberately going against both the intention and letter of unit pricing.


Definitely ONLY Unit Price, unless it’s a drastically marked down item like the slab of Two Birds Golden Ale I bought from Dan Murphys yesterday for $22.20.