Getting value for money might not be your prime goal when buying Christmas presents but if you are planning to snap up chocolates or sweets for the ones you love, it pays to check what you are going to get for your cash. That fancy box or tub may come at a cost (financial and environmental) – and, contrary to appearances, it might mean fewer treats for the recipient, not more.
We’ve all heard about “shrinkflation”, where companies sneak through price rises by shrinking pack sizes, but when it comes to festive confectionery, it’s important to be wise to the other packaging tricks that manufacturers and retailers maybe hope we won’t notice.
At Marks & Spencer, for example, upgrading from a bag to a box of fruit jellies means downsizing – despite the latter’s much higher price tag – as a Guardian Money reader who got in touch was shocked to discover. In a London branch of the high street retailer, a 200g bag of Fruit Jellies sells for £1.20, while a box containing 180g of identical looking sweets, badged as Jelly Fruits, is on sale for £2.60. Per 100g, the sweets in the bag cost 60p and in the box cost £1.40.
The unit prices are marked up on the shelves but from the outside it is not obvious that you are buying a box with a small bag inside. The box effectively costs £1.52 once the price difference and the 10% fewer sweets are taken into account.
Pricing quirks and the cost of excess packaging are always worth bearing in mind, particularly around Christmas and Easter when manufacturers invent new ways to present their goods.
This year, Mars’s Celebrations brand is available in a new “centrepiece” box, which holds 385g of the sweets. It typically sells for £1 more than a pouch weighing 370g, and at the same price – or more – as a plastic tub weighing 650g. In Tesco, for example, the pouch is priced at £3.50, or £2.50 for Clubcard holders, the centrepiece box at £5, or £4 for Clubcard holders, and the plastic tub at £4. Respectively, that’s a cost per 100g of 95p (or 67.5p with a Clubcard), £1.30 (or £1) and 62p.
It is a discrepancy that’s not gone unnoticed by online shoppers. On Ocado’s website the centrepiece box gets one star, although at the time of writing it had been reduced from £5 to £3.50. The most recent purchaser, who posted on Tuesday, complained that they had “paid the price of a big box for a tiny …….