The pricing of milk should be simple and clear, for milk is a staple item in every household. In reality, confusion often reigns.
A recent check on prices of semi-skimmed milk in and around London N10 revealed the following:
M & S 4 pints £1.53 (unit price 67.3 p/L)
Tesco 4 pints £1.53
Morrisons 4 pints £1.53
Sainsbury’s 4 pints £1.53
Corner shop 2 litres £1.19 (unit price 59.5 p/L)
Iceland 4 pints £1.00 (unit price 44.0 p/L)
Costco 4 x 2 litres £3.19 (unit price 39.9 p/L)
Now we are not suggesting that price-fixing is occurring among the major supermarkets – this was investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) a short time ago, and heavy fines were imposed. But one of our readers asks if the choice of a 2.272 litre container for fresh milk by most supermarket chains is intended to confuse. Tim Bentley writes:
“The situation regarding the size of milk packaging in supermarkets is getting more ludicrous by the day. There has been a huge growth in the choice of different types of milk on offer in recent years and they are all in metric size containers, usually 500 mL, 1, 2 or 3 litre sizes. All that is now left in 1, 2, 4 or 6 pint containers are the supermarkets own brands of fresh milk. The situation makes price comparison much more difficult for consumers who have to study the very small price comparison labels which most people don’t bother to read.
I think the big five supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Co-op should agree to all use metric containers by a certain date to clear this matter up once and for all. Failing that, I wonder if in the public interest, the OFT could require them to do so?”
The milk displays in Sainsbury’s at Muswell Hill support Tim’s views. Milk is seldom placed so that it matches the corresponding price label. To find out a unit price, it is often necessary to check twenty or more shelf labels, and then, to get hold of that item, trawl through the milk itself, checking the bar codes if in doubt. How many busy shoppers have time for this? Many will grab four pints of semi-skimmed or whatever, without realising how expensive it is in comparison to that of some other suppliers.