It’s a rip-off. Supermarket packaging is tricking consumers, warns Which?

The world of retail is more cut-throat than ever at the moment. The big four supermarkets are all up the creek, and the discounters are wading in.

As the battle for market share rages, the techniques for squeezing more money out of consumers have become increasingly devious.

Consumer watchdog Which? has compiled some of the worst examples of money grabbing by supermarkets.

Here’s what to watch out for.

Copycat products

Something the discounters are especially good at, but none of the bigger players are above it. It’s all in making the packaging as similar to well-known brands as possible, so customers don’t notice the difference. As part of the study by Which? they “removed the brand names from ginger biscuits and asked Which? members to identify the branded biscuits. Two in five (39%) identified the Lidl version as the brand instead of McVitie’s, showing how similar the packaging can be.”

A lighter option?

Playing to a health-conscious market, lots of supermarket packaging includes words such as “light” in the title. But are they actually any healthier? NO. Which? highlights an example where McVitie’s Light Digestives contained 4.5g more sugar per 100g than the standard biscuits. You can’t trust anything.

There’s fish in everything

Vegetarians are being shafted left right and centre. You may think a soft drink ought to be free of animal parts, but unless a product explicitly says “suitable for vegetarians” somewhere on it, then it’s safe to assume it’s got pieces of animals in it. Which? says it “found fish ingredients in items from Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce to Kia-Ora and Lilt.”

Well, everyone knows that Worcestershire sauce is an anchovy sauce don’t they? But Lilt? Really?

Lilt can

Lilt - contains fish

Damn lies

If you have a drink that’s mostly made out of apples, then surely the word “apple” should come ahead of the word “strawberry” in the title. But no. Which? found “several examples of fruit drinks where the main ingredient is missing from the name, for example Innocent Kids Cherry & Strawberry Smoothies which only contain 18% cherries and strawberries, with the main ingredients being – cheaper – apples and grapes.”

Gift sets

Christmas is coming. Like it or not, people everywhere are going to lose their nut in a frenzy of spending on unwanted junk.

This is just great for supermarkets, if they can make a standard product look more like a “gift”, then they will. This usually involves pairing-up two or more items made by the same company, sticking them in an almighty plastic case and slapping an exorbitant price tag on it.

Deodorant is a classic. Here’s what Which? found: “A Lynx gift set costing £6.50 contained a deodorant that normally costs £3 and shower gel that’s £2. At the time of our investigation both products were also on offer, making the gift set an even worse deal.”

Merry Christmas.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • What! Supermarkets are a rip-off??!!

    No s**t, Sherlock!

    Lidl's and Aldi advertise that they offer copycat brands. They are not trying to fool anyone, it's part of the reason we're all switching to them (the other reasons being that they're cheaper, they stock British produce and they pay all their tax).

    Anybody who believes anything that food processors say wants their head examined. Unfortunately, many people do.

    We need draconian legislation to stop unscrupulous marketers and retailers from conning customers.

    For example:

    • A statutory limit on the ratio between the largest font size and the smallest font size in any advert. Just think about how much difference that would make. No more "small print".

    • A statutory limit between the volume of a product and the volume of it's packaging. How many times have you taken something out of its packaging, only to find it is one-third the size?

    • All products represented in photographs on packaging must have been produced using exactly the same process, methods and ingredients ad the product within.

    • Compulsory Red, Amber, Greed labeling regime on all food products.

    • The word "free" may only be used if the customer can have the product with no further conditions. There is no such thing as "buy one, get one free". The correct terminology is "two for the price of one".

    • All products derived from sugar must be lumped together as one. Manufacturers get round having to list "sugar" as the main ingredient by using several different sugar products, all of which they are allowed to list separately, e.g. concentrated fruit syrup, fructose, dextrose, maltose, glucose syrup, corn syrup etc. They're all sugar.

    And so on and so on, closing every single loophole that manufacturers and supermarkets use to lie to the public about the true nature of their products.

    Meanwhile, there is no substitute for buying fresh raw ingredients and making your own food from scratch.

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