Stores criticised over packaging: Containers can double prices, survey says

Marks and Spencer and Woolworth's are criticised today in a survey which finds that shoppers can pay almost twice as much for the same product when it is in layers of packaging.

A Granny Smith apple sold loose by Marks and Spencer costs 12.8p; sold in the same store in a plastic tray with overwrap it costs 24.75p - a difference of 11.95p or 93.4 per cent.

According to Friends of the Earth, over-elaborate packaging in shops such as Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, Superdrug and Body Shop is costing consumers dear. Typically the packaging 'surcharge' is up to 10 per cent, but many overpackaged items are between 10 and 30 per cent more expensive and the cost can go higher.

Researchers found that Marks and Spencer customers in Belfast, Bridgend, Bristol, London and York, were paying 83.8 per cent more for Gala apples, 61.3 per cent more for carrots and 25 per cent more for New Zealand Cox's apples - in each case because of overpackaging. Sainsbury customers were paying 38.5 per cent more for Chilean Granny Smith apples, 29.3 per cent more for British tomatoes and 20.1 per cent more for baby wipes.

No comparisons were possible within Woolworth stores, but Peni Walker, Friends of the Earth's packaging campaigner, said researchers were 'stunned' at how Woolworth products were uniformly overpackaged. The environmental lobby group says the survey belies the industry's claims that packaging saves money and resources because it protects goods during transportation.

Marks and Spencer said last night: 'We haven't had the chance to compare the lines, but we don't believe the comparisons will bear scrutiny.

Woolworth's said it was disappointed that it had not come out well in the survey, but it was working on its packaging.