Innovation That Matters

Pricey zucchini? Italian government sends food prices by SMS


With food prices soaring across the globe, consumers are understandably concerned. To help ensure that retailers don’t pass on more of the price increases than is strictly necessary, Italy’s Department for Agriculture, Food & Forestry is offering transparency by text message. Its SMS Consumatori service tracks prices for over 80 types of fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products, fish, etc and lets consumers access them when they’re out shopping. To use the service, shoppers send a text message to 47947, typing the name of the product they want a price for. (The system recognizes both singular and plural nouns, as well as variations.) They instantly receive a reply listing both a wholesale price and average retail prices in the North, Centre and South. If a product has various varieties, the service sends separate messages for each of the most popular ones. For example: text “pear”, and SMS Consumatori will return three separate messages, for Kaiser, Conference and Abate pears. Taking a thorough approach to getting its prices right, SMS Consumatori sources information from 2,200 different stores, ranging from butchers, market stalls and greengrocers to ‘ipermercati’ and discount stores, and covers all of Italy. Prices are updated from Tuesday to Saturday. The project’s website also shows price development over time, and where the highest and lowest prices for each product were found. Shoppers can even fill a virtual shopping cart and see what its average cost would be; registered users can save their shopping baskets for a personal view on historical data. The service is free, but to keep costs and traffic down, consumers can request a maximum of 5 prices per day and 30 per month. Since it doesn’t look like global food prices will drop anytime soon, this is one to set up elsewhere if you’re in government or telecom/mobile. For more on how to prosper (or fail) in a fully-informed marketplace, check out’s briefing on transparency tyranny. Spotted by: Giulia Cuccolini


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