Saving at the supermarket simple with unit pricing comparison
A family of four could save $1000 to $1700 on their weekly grocery shop each year by using a simple, often-overlooked tool to find the best value-for-money buys, a world-first study has found.
Dr Gary Mortimer and Dr Clinton Weeks, from QUT Business School, conducted a real-world study with 400 shoppers across Australia on using unit pricing to save on groceries.
"The problem with some supermarket saving strategies is shoppers have to visit multiple stores, create lists, buy from many online sites, and buy in bulk or marked down items to achieve savings," Dr Mortimer said.
"But using unit pricing could mean all these complex manoeuvres can be dropped by referring to the price ticket which contains the unit cost of the product per 100g.
"Unit pricing makes price comparison easy by removing the need to calculate price differences across similar products sold in packages of varying shape and size, giving shoppers a ready reckoner for getting the best value for money.
"The problem is many shoppers overlook this information, can't see it, don't understand how to use it or simply see no value in it.
"Grocery shopping is a low-involvement, mundane activity so shoppers often use either price or brand to inform their choice and miss out on savings."
Drs Mortimer and Weeks studied the grocery purchases of 400 shoppers across Australia over 25 weeks.
"We wanted our shoppers to go about their weekly grocery shopping as normal, and not burden them with complex routines," Dr Mortimer said.
"We divided them into different groups and they sent in their receipts each week for 25 weeks. We found once shoppers were educated on unit pricing, they began saving money immediately.
"The group which received unit price information each week for the first five weeks saved 18 per cent by week six which settled back to 13 per cent after that.
"The shoppers who received unit pricing information every fortnight for 10 weeks saved 17 percent by week six and then returned to a consistent 11 per cent a week saving.
"And the group which received no information made no significant increase or decrease in cost of their weekly shop."
Dr Mortimer said the study was the first to demonstrate that consumer education on unit pricing could lead to real savings.
"Previous research has shown that shoppers mostly respond in a positive manner when asked if they use unit pricing, even when they don't," he said.
"For example, one study found almost half the participants in a condition where unit prices were not present, claimed to have seen and used this non-existent information in their purchase decisions.
"These are important findings because for the first time we have empirically demonstrated consumers need education on unit pricing to be able to use it for their benefit."
Dr Mortimer said Galaxy Research had found Australian families spend, on average, almost $185 on their weekly shop, single person households spend $93.70, and two-person households $134.60.
"Based on this analysis, we suggest a family of four could save anywhere from $1000 to $1700 each year on their weekly grocery shop, without having to implement complex and inconvenient tactics."