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Weighty warning

CHOICE bites back over the food industry's plan to remove product weight from the front of packs

01 June 2017

Consumer group CHOICE has launched a campaign against a sneaky industry proposal that could see quantity statements stripped from the front of popular consumer goods, making it harder for shoppers to find and compare value for money on the shelves.

"You only have to look at the inconsistent sizing across products from companies like Cadbury and Arnott's to realise how confusing it is for consumers to compare products," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey. 

"Cadbury's family chocolate blocks may be popular and look the same but their weights fluctuate. For example, fans of Cadbury's Marvellous Creations range can end up paying the same for a bar that weighs 18% less simply by picking Spider Choc Raspberry over Jelly Popping Candy Beanies. [1] 

"Biscuit lovers might be shocked to learn that if they buy Arnott's Chewy Caramel Tim Tams instead of the Tim Tam Originals they'll end up with 25 grams less, or 9 biscuits instead of 11. 

"The erratic changes in weight across similar looking packs are likely to confuse consumers and illustrate why it's vital the pack weight stays on the front of a product.

"The sad fact is some food companies can't be trusted when it comes to pack claims and it's not uncommon to see the size of products reduced but the price remain the same."
CHOICE found comparing similar looking products from different companies can also prove difficult.

"Mama Lucia's Mini Bocconcinni comes in a bigger pack than La Casa Del Formaggio's Bambini Bocconcini, but if you buy the larger tub you'll end up with 40 grams less," Mr Godfrey says.

The National Measurement Institute is set to consider proposals by junk food and cosmetic companies who are pushing to remove the current mandatory quantity measurement from the front of their products.  

"There's no good reason for companies to be given permission to remove the quantity statements from the front of their products," says Mr Godfrey. 

"Our research has also shown hiding the quantity information on the back of pack is likely to short change 74 % of people who consider it important. [2] Yet industry argues their proposal is designed to remove red tape.

"Front of pack quantity statements also allow consumers to look past deceptive pack sizes and colours, and with unit pricing not mandatory in all shops this information is essential," says Mr Godfrey. 

Currently, Australian weights and measure laws, and an international recommendation that Australia has signed on to, require that quantity statements are located on the front label of packages, where it is easy for consumers to notice, read and compare figures. 

The Department of Industry is consulting on the change until the end of June.

CHOICE is calling on consumers to write to the National Measurement Institute to save front of pack weights at choice.com.au/weightywarning

Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

[1] Comparing Cadbury Marvellous Creations: Jelly Popping Candy Beanies 205g for $2.50 with Cadbury Marvellous Creations: Spider Choc Raspberry 170g for $2.50.

[2] The online study was conducted by IPSOS on behalf of CHOICE from 16 June to 1 July 2014. The results have been weighted to be representative of Australian population (age, gender, and location), sample of N=3,104 people aged 18+