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Unit Pricing: Comments sought on a draft international standard

Would an intermediate step to to have stores use one or other only across all similar products. So for your tea bag example, the store would have to do all their unit pricing of tea bags by ONE of EITHER weight or by number (but not both)? There might not be consistency between stores, but at least there would be consistency within stores.


Many companies would be happy to game the system. Using an incredible shrinking tea bag as example, if I knew the unit comparison was by count I might be packing the most ‘tea free’ bags possible to make them look cheap.

Customers would eventually wake up but the comment is not about tea, it is about how businesses game the best of intentions.

Some things just need both IMO, or weight matters. A counter argument is that customers should have the ability to do some basic math and get the answer they need but they do not, enter unit pricing as more than just a convenience.


Yes, requiring a retailer to use only one unit of measure for all packages of a product type, eg tea bags, would be beneficial and possible when, as is common, all packages show the total weight and the number of items. It becomes less possible when for products where some packages only show weight and some only show number.

And, it would be even better if all retailers used the same unit of measure when there is a choice, which is not the present situation…

The denomination of the unit of measure, eg per each or per 100, is also important and again consistency of use within and between retailers is important.

The review of the Oz UP Code due to be completed before mid 2019 will be an opportunity to raise these sorts of problems and hopefully to get the Code and retailer compliance improved.

As I have said before, when there is choice I generally favour using weight not number to indicate the unit price.


Providing more than one unit price, eg for tea bags per 100g and per 100 bags, is something I have thought about and have seen done overseas, eg laundry products per wash and per unit of weight/volume/tablet.

However, unless there was clear evidence that it would benefit consumers and not confuse them I’d be reluctant to recommend it. What do you think?

On this point, largely because the UK allows the voluntary use of some imperial measures, in addition to the mandatory metric measures, the UK UP law requires that the print for any supplementary UP provided, eg per lb, must be be no bigger than that used for the mandatory unit price.

That is not an issue here. However, there is a problem here with retailers showing the UP per roll and per 100 sheets for rolls of toilet paper and per can and per litre for cans of coke etc. And, they always make the UP per roll or can much more prominent and legible than the other UP.

So, I’m going to try to get a UK type requirement in the ISO UP standard and any revised OZ UP code.


I’d just like to see everything priced by the kilogram - but there are exceptions that make the numbers a little silly :slight_smile: not impossible though …


If they priced as an example tea bags at both per 100 bags and bags per 100g a canny shopper could quickly ascertain if a tea bag was a decently filled one or was a fairly light one. On this site the issue of weak tea from cheap tea bags that didn’t obviously have enough tea leaves has been discussed:

This next one actually is a good pointer on the problem one box 100 bags and 180 g of product, another 100 bags and 200 g of product and yet another 200 bags and 480 g (100 bags to 240 g of product) but having the price per 100 g would also make it easier to compare value when combined with price per bag. Or perhaps number of bags per 100 g may be a better choice.


I think there are two aspects, one being the difficulty of getting any standard defined and accepted, and the other whether the standard reflects an arbitrary set or provides practical metrics for the product.

Re unit pricing, and the venerable tea bag argument, ‘we’ covered aspects of that [in another thread]((How easy is it to use unit pricing in the supermarket?) that was also previously linked above.

Some things just do not lend themselves to single meaningful units so whatever is picked will be arbitrary for some and meaningful for others. Is picking one going to be confusing, or providing the information for each group? I vote to specify both where it is clearly applicable such as tea bags, but not where it is subjective like ‘numbers of washes’ where there is no consumer concept of ‘the standard wash’ and machines come in 7, 8, 9, 10kg and more capacities making the number of washes per weight quite slippery.

I trust those examples made a point regarding real utility of unit pricing, not just the implementation.


Thanks for reminding me about problem of choosing the unit of measure for unit pricing SAFFRON!!!
During the negotiations on the Oz UP code we argued for the max possible use of kg as the unit of measure for unit pricing products sold by weight.
However, we ended up with per 100g as the standard unit of measure largely because retailers highlighted tha the unit price of saffron would be enormously expensive t per kg.
We argued in vain that even if per kg was the standard unit of measure, a much smaller unit of measure (eg per 10g as in the Code) could be allowed for such products.
Fortunately, we did manage to get kg as the required denomination of weight for unit pricing meat, fish, cheese, nuts, fruit and veg, etc because it is required by Trade Measurement laws when these products are sold loose from bulk or in packages of random measure (catch weight).
This is something that needs to be adddressed again when the Code is reviewed.


Putting more than one UP on shelf labels might be a challenge for grocery retailers with small shelf labels, eg Woolworths and some independent supermarkets.

I agree that to achieve the in principle/theoretical benefits of unit pricing it is essential to have:

  • appropriate laws/guidelines re presentation, units of measure, etc;
  • monitor and enforce retailer compliance;
  • consumer education.

The truth is scary isn’t it! The retailers are arguing based on the exception, rather than the rule.

Is it too much to ask people to just move the decimal point left, or right, when calculating UP?


Ask that in the US and see how you go :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:


I think having both indications - as in the example of dishwasher detergent (price per unit of weight/volume and price per tablet) is needed for all applicable products (tea bags, toilet paper, paper tissues, items of food sold by numerical unit ‘one pumpkin’ or ‘five bananas’ which are so often priced by weight.
It is really not much different to needing to be able to compare price between 1.25 litre beverage bottle and a 375 millilitre beverage can - the shopper is no more likely to take 4.5 bananas to the checkout than they are to take three-tenths of a 1.25 litre beverage bottle to the checkout.


Is this really a question of what makes the most sense to a consumer?

For dishwashing tablets the cost per tablet or per 100 may make sense in comparing two products. That assumes they both do an equivalent job.

For bananas or apples buying on weight is how we do it. If you like larger apples then fine. You get fewer. It’s the half a cabbage or pumpkin for $2 deals that you really need to watch out for in F&V.

We somehow survive on the roads with a variety of lane conditions and differing speed limits. If we can manage this we should be able to cope with differing unit measurements on different classes of product. The rules simply need to be set consistently for each class to reflect how we the consumer need. We do not need to be lemmings?

Spices could be marked per 10gms perhaps, although knowing saffron can go into the tens of thousands per kg may help save this spice from over use. While toilet tissue per sheet defies one set of logic as ply/thickness and strength vary and sheet sizes continue to shrink.

Is pre-packaged fruit & veg always marked with a weight and equivalent price per kg? Some is, some is not.


Thanks for the comment on this important issue for unit pricing policy and provision.

As I have indicated previously, I think that for some products it could be beneficial for consumers to have 2 unit prices provided.

However, it is essential for consumers to have confidence in the integrity of the unit of measure used for any unit price e.g.if a unit price per wash load is provided in addition to per unit of product weight/volume/capsule/tablet what constitutes “a wash load” needs to be defined in a standard.


Yes, the key is to have consistent rules for products but that is not easy to achieve, specially when products are offered for sale in terms of both weight and number (as is common with some fruit and vegetables).

For paper products in sheets, like toilet paper and kitchen towels, unit prices per 100 sheets (per sheet is useless) works OK if you consider that ply is a quality factor to take into account when comparing unit prices per 100 sheets. However, it does not work so well if sheet sizes vary greatly, so unit prices per unit of area e.g. per sq metre could be more accurate. However, that be not be OK for all consumers.


Forgot to include in my previous comment the need for research on consumer impacts from provoking more that one unit price for some products.

It might just confuse many consumers.

Also, it might be difficult to fit 2 unit prices on some shelf labels, especially if they both have to be prominent and legible, which is essential otherwise there is little point in providing unit prices. .


Another Woolies fail. Is it to be per each (box) or per each (tablet)? One could ask how hard can it be, but it is apparently so hard they cannot do it :roll_eyes:



Yes, lack of attention to detail seems to be the cause of many of the errors with the units of measure used for unit prices.

Also of failure to provide unit prices. For example, as can be seen from the photos below, today in their newspaper New Year adverts Coles did not provide the unit price for any of the 6 items it should have whereas Woolworths did (albeit in very small print) for the 3 items required by the UP code.


I, too, would like to see all solids, powders etc priced by the kilogram

and the obvious liquids priced by the litre.

Big fan of SI units.


$139,900/kg for saffron might push the limits of the price tag ‘real estate’. @draughtrider’s point has to be taken as a matter of practicality.

and for solids, a bit of diversion (US-centric historical data)


and computers have been going for about $440/kg :smiley: