'There's a chance the tag is lying to you': Which dental floss offers the best value?

A photo of a shelf of dental floss at Countdown
How well do you check and compare prices at the supermarket? Photo credit: Newshub.

For people wanting to cut down their household expenses, here's an opportunity to check your supermarket shopping skills.

The Statistics New Zealand household expenditure survey 2019 shows the average Kiwi household spends $233.60 per week on food - and that doesn't include personal hygiene products. That's a significant expense and provides an opportunity to save money. 

People who live on a restricted budget are more likely to focus on the cheapest product. For those whose budget is more flexible, a more expensive brand may provide better value through higher quality, or because it's known and trusted.  

Focusing purely on cost, chartered accountant Anthony Appleton-Tattersall said when people are in a rush, they may fall for marketing tactics to tell them the best price. But what may seem cheapest at first glance, often isn't.  

"Supermarkets regularly get in trouble for advertising specials when they aren't really special at all..there's a small but very real chance the tag is lying to you," he said.

Which dental floss is the cheapest?

The photo below shows four types of dental floss recently available at Countdown. Two are discounted and one is marketed as a 'great price'.

Looking at the four options, from a cost perspective, which one provides the best value?

Pictured (left to right):

A.Colgate charcoal dental floss - 25m for $4 

B.Colgate dental floss mint waxed - 100m for $8 

C. Reach dental floss - 50m for $3.99 (cleanburst spearmint waxed/waxed)

D. Oral B satin tape - 25m for $3.  

Which is cheapest: A, B, C or D?
Which is cheapest: A, B, C or D? Photo credit: Newshub.

The cheapest option is 'C' - the Reach spearmint flavoured or waxed 50m for $3.99 (tellingly, the waxed version had already sold out).

"On a purely financial basis, it's also the best, at slightly less than 8c per metre it narrowly beats out the $8 for 100m (option B)," Appleton-Tattersall said.

"From an environmental perspective, it's better to get the 100m box so there's less waste in the world," he added.

The most expensive is the Colgate charcoal flavoured dental floss. With 20 percent off, it cost 1c more than the Reach dental floss, for only half the amount of floss.  

A spokesperson for Colgate-Palmolive said its dental floss helps to protect gums and reduce tooth decay by removing plaque between teeth and along the gum line. The bamboo charcoal mint flavour helps freshen breath, an added benefit.

Although Colgate-Palmolive provides recommended retail prices on its products, the retailer sets the price it sells to customers.

"There is no obligation on the retailer to follow suppliers' recommendations with respect to prices," the spokesperson said.

What to look for when comparing prices

Shoppers are urged to check the small 'Cost per x (100gram, kilogram or metre) on supermarket labels (also shown online).

Appleton-Tattersall also suggests shoppers could use a notebook to keep track of what they've previously paid for items, particularly fruit and vegetables. Websites such as produce.co.nz have a seasonality chart, which show what's in season and therefore, when they're cheaper.

Another more simple approach is to focus on the top and bottom shelves.

"Big brands pay good money to be placed on shelves at premium eye-level and hand-level. Big brands have big costs, and they pass them on to you: buy from the little guy," Appleton-Tattersall added.

Countdown said it aims to ensure prices are clear, accurate and unambiguous for customers. Unit pricing displayed on shelves makes it easy for customers to compare.

"All of our prices nationwide are publicly available on our online shopping site and this includes labelling whether they're on special, part of our Great Price range and the usual shelf price, so customers know what they are saving," a Countdown spokesperson said.

Countdown said the average store has around 25,000 products, which includes 4000 products in the great price programme, aimed at providing low long-term prices. Promotions were  developed in conjunction with suppliers.