Are supermarkets deliberately putting you off the cheap stuff?

tea and biscuits Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A new report from Which? has revealed that we taste with our eyes - and that the right packaging can convince us that food tastes better - or worse. Its researchers discovered that we're more likely to prefer the taste of food in fancier packaging.

It also raised the question of whether supermarkets are deliberately trying to dissuade us from buying their cheaper low cost alternatives by using off-putting packaging.

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The tests

The consumer group tested out chocolate chip cookies from the premium, standard, and budget ranges at Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco. One group of testers were shown the packaging, while the others were not. The group that saw the packaging generally thought that the biscuits tasted better overall.

However, they also felt that the biscuits in the superior packaging (including a matte rather than shiny finish, or a mixture of textures such as embossing) tasted better. The group who weren't shown the packaging were less reliably able to spot the cheapest and most expensive biscuits.
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Off-putting

The researchers then showed the packaging to a panel of experts, who suggested that the design of some budget ranges may even be designed to dissuade you from buying the product, so you'll pick the more expensive option instead.

There are certainly instances where this seems to be the case. There will be those who see a packet which draws attention to the fact that the chocolate biscuits inside have less chocolate than others and immediately move on.

Really?

However, this is a controversial notion. Clearly these items are not meant to attract the wealthy shopper. After-all the Sainsbury's basics range used to be called the Low Price range, and before that it was branded Economy - none of these titles are designed to attract the aspirational buyer. Meanwhile the blue and white stripes of the Tesco Value range became synonymous with struggle until the rebranding.

However, both ranges have been completely rebranded. The recession and the subsequent double-dip means there is money to be made from the cost-cutter. Without the glaring blue and white stripes, there is a broader appeal to Tesco's cheapest ranges. Without the Low Price labeling, Sainsbury's basics range seems designed for people who have better things to do with their money than buy overpriced biscuits.

Which? shopping expert Matt Clear says: "The continuing recession means that supermarkets have to compete even harder for your custom. One of the ways they do this is by using carefully designed packaging to influence customers' perceptions of their products. With budgets being squeezed, savvy shopping means decoding supermarkets' packaging."

But what do you think? Are they trying to put us off buying the bargains, or is packaging just there as a short-cut to enable us to work out which are the most expensive products? Let us know in the comments.

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Are supermarkets deliberately putting you off the cheap stuff?

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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