Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

Even if the amount to pay is the same, displaying by the pound is perceived less expensive than that by the kilo.

Prices per pound and per kilo which fuel confusion

Open in full screen mode

Does one of these prices seem higher than the other? Beware of perceptions!

  • Daniel Blanchette Pelletier (View profile)Daniel Blanchette Pelletier

Feature being tested

Log inCreate my account

Speech synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from 'a written text.

A beef strip steak at $16.99 per pound or $37.46 per kilogram: despite the adoption of the metric system in Canada, retailers continue to put forward the price of the majority of their products first charges per pound rather than per kilo. A practice allowing them to make their prices appear lower than they really are.

I have not the slightest doubt that prices appear lower per pound, says Mrugank Thakor, one of the authors of a study on consumers' perception of prices based on their displays at the grocery store.

Even if the amount to pay is the same once at the checkout, displaying per kilogram is perceived as more expensive than per pound by consumers.

The work carried out by the Concordia University team showed that they in fact attach more importance to the figures than to the unit of measurement to which the prices are attached. Prices per pound therefore seem cheaper to them than per kilo, but only because the number in front of the unit of measurement is lower.

Especially since it is often difficult for consumers to assess the real price of a food displayed by weight before arriving at the checkout, sometimes with an unpleasant surprise.

The impression that food by the pound is cheaper than it is lasts until the checkout. Then, you pay, and it's the price per kilo that ends up on the bill.

A quote from Mrugank Thakor, Concordia University

But I think most people don't look at the real prices of what they buy by the weight on their receipt, agrees the researcher.

In Canada, the metric system has been in use for 50 years now. But, in reality, its use varies depending on the units of measurement.

Length, temperature and mass are sometimes measured according to the metric system – in meters, Celsius and grams – and sometimes according to the imperial system – in feet , in Fahrenheit and in pounds.

This is particularly the case at the grocery store, and in circulars where discounts can be found, for foods fresh, such as fruits and vegetables, meats and fish.

The law states that net quantities associated with foods must be displayed according to their weight or volume. Although the metric system is used, the weight of foods that are not packaged can also be displayed in pounds, provided that the two units of measurement are used in combination.

Most of the time, however, it is the price per pound which is highlighted, by being displayed in larger characters for example, and not the price per kilo (often written smaller, or even below) as one might expect. wait.


With packaged products, the system metric, per gram and per kilo, is preferred, both on the packaging, the label and in circulars and online grocery stores.

As a general rule, prices per pound are displayed larger in circulars; the number is also more visible than the unit of measurement.

Photo album: The price, more attractive per pound than per kilo?

They have the right to do so, says Mrugank Thakor, and this is what allows retailers to make their fresh food appear cheaper. If this were not the result, the pound display would have long disappeared from grocery stores, he believes.

Researchers of the Concordia University also demonstrated that the gap in price perception decreased when the number and the unit of measurement were written in the same size, contrary to common practice where the price is displayed in larger size.

Consumers also seemed to understand more that prices per pound and per kilo were equivalent when they were given the same importance when displayed.

Mrugank Thakor speculates that changing the display in this way could eventually allow the metric system to take over the imperial system in Canada.

The CEO of the Quebec Food Retailers Association, Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, believes that everything is linked to consumers' perception of prices.

According to him, their habits can also explain why retailers make this choice. Consumers still have this reflex, he mentions, when talking about buying by the pound. But he suggests that the display could eventually adjust to generational changes.

The authors of the study also noted that businesses which displayed their prices per kilo were perceived as more expensive by consumers than those which favored the imperial system. They therefore have every advantage in continuing to display their prices per pound.

Can these tactics, although legal, come close to deception? That’s what you might think, recognizes Mrugank Thakor. But, in reality, it is also a practice that encourages people to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables than processed foods, displayed individually and according to the metric system.

The expert therefore believes that this is not such a bad thing for the health of the public, unlike his wallet.

Open in mode full screen

How many milliliters is your cup? It depends where you cook!

It's not just weight that can cause confusion among consumers.

In Canada, volumes are now measured in litres, unlike other Commonwealth countries and the United States, where liquids are instead measured in ounces. But they do not have the same value.

The imperial ounce is equivalent to 28.4 ml, while the American ounce is equivalent to 29, 6 ml.

The United States thought about standardizing measurements by adopting a universal system at the end of the 1960s. This international system of units would be based on the metric system, with its meters and kilograms.

When moving from ounces to liters, Canada rounded, in 1972, the imperial cup from 227 ml to 250 ml, the volume of the metric cup more common across the world and more practical in the kitchen.

The United States, for their part, ultimately did not adopt the system they had proposed .

So even if a cup is 8 ounces across the globe, that's 236 ml in the United States, 250 ml in Canada, and 227 ml in d other countries which have maintained the imperial system.

Not easy, in this context, to follow a Canadian, American or British recipe which requires adding a cup of one of the ingredients.

Especially since reflation (yes, again!) sometimes gets involved, recalls Jordan Lebel.

There are products that are ingredients in recipes that travel across the Internet and in books, explains the expert specializing in food marketing.

A good example is cream , whose recipes sometimes call for one or two cups.

Previously, it was bought in Canada in 250 ml or 500 ml cartons. Then its size was reduced to 237 ml and 473 ml – which is not the size of the old Canadian cup, but rather the size of the American cup.

Two containers must since be purchased to equal one or two Canadian cups, at the risk of wasting the remainder of the second. There are consequences like that that we don't necessarily think about, intervenes Jordan Lebel.

Ben & Jerry did the same last year, reducing his ice cream container from 500 ml to 473 ml, in an effort to standardize its size with that sold in other countries (473 ml is the equivalent of a pint of 16 ounces (or two cups) sold in the United States).

Same principle at Saugeen Country: by wanting to replace its yogurt container with one made with 40% less plastic, the company had to make a reduction by 9.2%.

For what? Because said container is only made in the United States, which also favors the imperial system for weight, in a 2 lb format, or 908 g (rather than the 1 kg previously sold).

< source srcset=",w_700/v1/ici-info/perso/reduflation-cafe.png" media="(min-width: 0px) and (max-width: 1023px)">Open in full screen mode


One ​​of the first documented cases of re-inflation, in 1988, clearly shows the issue of consumers' perception of units of measurement.

American company Chock Full o’ Nuts had reduced its one-pound coffee package to 13 ounces, rather than 0.8 pounds. The reduction, combined with the change in unit of measurement, then had a good chance of going unnoticed by consumers.

Identifying cases of reduflation is a complex task. Reductions are not announced and reduced formats and those before are rarely found side by side on the shelves.

We rely on the ability of consumers to memorize the quantities and volumes written on the front of the packaging and their prices. assumes that the format decreases while the price remains the same, or increases slightly. Sometimes the price decreases, but the quantity of product lost is usually greater than the savings to consumers.

When we go grocery shopping, we buy a large number of products, often more than a hundred in our basket, recalls Maryse Côté-Hamel. We will not necessarily take the time to analyze the price of each of them.

The consumer science expert discusses, for example, the psychology of price, as consumers are more likely to memorize prices ending by 0, 5 and 9 than the others.

It's easier to remember that the product is $3.99 than $3.86

A quote from Maryse Côté-Hamel , Laval University

The professor at Laval University, however, recalls that consumers have a tool, in Quebec at least, to monitor and compare products price: displaying the price per unit of measurement.

If the information is clearly indicated per 100 g, it is still possible for the consumer to understand how much it costs them, she explains. It becomes a personal choice.

Remains that through the multiplication of formats and units of measurement, which add up to reductions in formats and price increases, grocery shopping has never been a more complex task for the consumer.

  • Daniel Blanchette Pelletier (View profile)Daniel Blanchette PelletierFollow

By admin

Related Post