Packaging tricks revealed

A new Which? investigation reveals 10 packaging tactics used by supermarkets and manufacturers to tempt consumers to buy products.

We uncovered 10 packaging tactics including:

  • Gift set rip-off: We 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.
  • Copycat products: Many supermarket own brand products borrow heavily from the look and feel of well-known brands, which can confuse consumers into accidently buying them.  We 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.
  • Not so ‘light’ products: We found food products labelled as ‘light’ that may not be the healthy option many consumers think, for example we found McVitie’s Light Digestives contained 4.5g more sugar per 100g than the standard biscuits.
  • Veggies beware: Surprisingly we found fish ingredients in items from Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce to Kia-Ora and Lilt, making them unsuitable for vegetarians. Don’t assume a product is free from meat or fish unless it’s labelled ‘Suitable for vegetarians’.
  • What’s in a name?: We 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.

Which? editor, Richard Headland, said:

“We’ve found packaging tactics across the supermarkets that run the risk of misleading customers. Supermarkets and manufacturers need to play fair to avoid confusing consumers.

“We’re campaigning for simple food pricing to make it easy for consumers to compare products and find the best deal.”

Notes to editors

  1. The full results of our investigation can be found here.
  2. To research packaging tricks, we asked 7,855 Which? members in September 2014 about their experiences with packaging and we examined hundreds of products in shops and on supermarkets’ websites.

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