It’s another way to help you save on the grocery store – so why not have unit pricing mandatory?

cost of living6:14If you want to save money on food, read the detailed line!

One of the best ways to compare prices at the grocery store is to look at the unit price. It’s that tiny little price in the corner of the label that tells you how much something costs per gram or liter. However, unlike in some other countries, stores are not required to display a unit price in every part of Canada. Jennifer Kane explains why.

Jennifer Cypher comes from a long line of mini clamps and uses to bring a calculator when she’s grocery shopping with her college mates.

These days she’s still a keen shopper — but she uses a lesser known tool to expand her dollar and track her spending: unit pricing.

“I like to compare stores, and I like to get value for my money,” she said from Toronto. “I noticed there was unit pricing, and started using it as a way to make choices at the grocery store.”

Many Canadian stores share a price per 100g or 100ml less than the retail price of the product, for example, but unit pricing is mandatory only in Quebec. In the United States, at least 21 states offer unit pricing, 11 of which are mandated by law.

In the simplest terms, unit pricing is the price per standard unit of measure; It allows for easier price comparisons between similar products in different sized containers. This way, you can tell if the best buy is the 2.5 liter bottle of detergent or the 1.5 liter bottle.

“It’s a wonderful and powerful tool to help consumers – and also to promote competition and get better economic outcomes in general – because it provides consumers with information that enables them to make better informed decisions,” said retired economist Ian Jarratt. The cost of living.

There are no national standards

Jarratt, who works with the Consumers Association of Queensland, has been advocating unit pricing in his native Australia for two decades.

“There are very large differences in unit price between products and between brands – between package sizes, between packaged and non-packaged, between specials and regular prices, and between products with a high level of convenience associated with them,” he said.

Jay Jackson, director of policy and strategy at the Consumer Council of Canada, said that because there are currently no real standards on how unit pricing is presented in Canada, it is not always presented in a very consumer-friendly way here.

Gray-haired person in blue shirt and dark jacket.
Jay Jackson of the Consumer Council of Canada says unit pricing is the best way for all consumers to compare shopping and saving money. (presented by Jay Jackson)

Read the small text

the Council Conducted a study in 2019* 91 percent of respondents found that everyone should have access to a unit price label – and 96 percent found the unit price very useful.

However, it is often written in small print on the price tag stuck to the store shelf.

“Some of our focus groups were saying, ‘First of all, you need to bend down very low to see it,'” Jackson said. You need a magnifying glass.” “It gives the impression that the retailer doesn’t really want you to see it and makes you wonder why you wear it at all.”

If a retailer has a unit price for some products but not for all, that’s a red flag for Cypher when you’re shopping.

“Sometimes I suspect they’re doing this on purpose as a way to try to convince you not to know the prices.”

Close-up of a woman with chin-length hair and glasses.
Jennifer Cypher says she uses unit price to make sure she gets the best value for her money when grocery shopping. (Provided by Jennifer Cypher)

Stores that include it viewed favorably

Jarratt doesn’t understand why not all retailers want to include it – and let their customers know.

“Consumers view retailers who provide efficient unit pricing positively,” he said. “And they are likely to continue using the store.”

He said people might look at the unit price and buy the most expensive one anyway, especially if they see that the difference isn’t actually that big.

A short-haired person standing in front of a shelf of cereal boxes, with a serious expression on his face.
Retired economist Ian Jarrett has been fighting for unit pricing in Australia for the better part of two decades. (Provided by Ian Jarrett)

But for those who focus on the bottom line, you can’t beat it.

“It’s important, especially for low-income consumers, to be able to figure out the lowest price,” Jackson said. “The brand may not necessarily be important to them, but the price does matter. And it’s not just low-income consumers – all consumers, given the way the price increases have happened lately.”

A tool to deal with “deflationary inflation”

Unit pricing can also be useful for dealing with so-called “deflation” – where a company reduces the size of the package by quantity or volume but leaves the price as is.

Jarratt said that if you asked people how big their cereal box was, they likely wouldn’t know the top of their head.

“People don’t focus so much on quantity, but they focus on price,” he said.

Two boxes of chai tea on a grocery store shelf with different price tags in front of them.
Jackson says consumers have found unit pricing to be a bit tricky to find on the price tag. (Jennifer Kane/CBC)

Cypher agrees.

“I do a lot of grocery shopping,” she said. “I’m going to be placing an order together online, so I find it really helpful to be able to see how much things are in terms of how big they are.”

In Canada, the decision to make unit pricing mandatory rests with each province. However, decisions must be made about the criteria to follow The guidance has already been developed.

Loblaw, who voluntarily provides unit pricing nationwide, told CBC News by email that it is “part of our commitment to helping customers make financially informed choices when purchasing products.”

One factor that people take into consideration is price, said Karl Littleler, senior vice president of public affairs for the Canadian Retail Council. But they also buy based on how many units are in the package, how much storage space they have and how much they’ll use before the next time they shop — among other things.

He said manufacturers are already doing a lot of testing to see what size package consumers prefer.

While Littler said he could see the benefit of unit pricing, “not everything that is attractive is necessarily required by law.”

Watch | How Canadians are dealing with rising food prices:

How do you deal with food price inflation?

On the streets of Toronto, many Canadians have shared their thoughts on how rising food prices are affecting their family budget.

However, New Zealand wants to make it law, and now it is Consultation on how to submit mandatory unit pricing.

Australia is also looking at ways to extend current unit pricing practices to the level offered in parts of Europe, where they can be found in pharmacies, hardware stores and pet stores – as well as grocery stores.

“I think it’s very beneficial for consumers,” Jarratt said. “We live in the information age. Why not offer consumers [a] More vital information to help them make more informed choices? “


* Information for the study was collected through a quantitative online survey conducted by the Environics Research Group, which included results from 2,000 participants in English and French. The sample was designed to be representative of the general population of Canada, ages 18 and older, based on age, gender, and region from the 2016 census.