Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why Are Products Shrinking?

If it seems like you run out of dishwashing liquid or breakfast cereal much faster these days, you are not imagining it.  Many of the products we use everyday are shrinking.  It's a sneaky way for manufacturers to raise prices without a buyer noticing ... at least not right away.  But it's getting harder to miss because the products shrink over and over again.  Just where -- at what minuscule size -- will it stop?  Already I'm purchasing 6 ounces of yogurt when I used to get 8 ounces.  Yesterday I spotted a brand reduced to 5.3 ounces!  And as it turns out, I'm not satisfied eating the 6 ounces!  This is causing a dilemma where there shouldn't be one:  Consuming one yogurt isn't enough.  Eating two yogurts is two much.  For a while, I tried buying a large 32 ounce container and divided it into 4 servings, but most New York City supermarkets only stock plain and vanilla yogurt in the larger size.  And I missed the refreshing fruity flavors.

Sadly, yogurt companies aren't the only merchants doing it.  All products are shrinking:

  • Recently canned tuna went from 6 ¾ ounces to 6 ounces to 5 ounces.
  • Kellogg's Raisin Bran, once 22 ounces, shrank to 18 ounces, than to 16 ounces, and then again to 15 ounces.
  • Dishwashing liquid, which was once 16 ounces, decreased to 14 ounces before going to 12 ounces, then 11-and now 10.3 ounces.  Are they kidding!
  • 16 ounces of tomatoes and other cans of fruit and vegetables are today only 15 ounces.
  • 5 pounds of Domino sugar is now sold as 4 pounds.
  • 32 ounces of Hellmann's mayonnaise is now 30 ounces.
  • 16 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips are down to 12 ounces.  I don't think Nestle's is trying to help me prevent cavities, do you?
  • One pound of ground coffee is only 13 ounces.  Yesterday I saw a Folger's can at 11.3 ounces.
  • 250 Kleenexes are now boxes of only 100 … while prices are still going up.
The practice and the list goes on and on.  And, I'm not sure how we can stop it.  Manufacturers often redesign packages to fool us into thinking the quantity is the same.  It's certainly not transparent and slightly dishonest.  And it's leaving some of us hungry!  For brief periods, consumers can compensate by switching to other brands, but eventually, manufacturers seem to follow one another.  Nowadays, I couldn't find a 6 ¾ ounce can of tuna without stepping into a time machine.  Aren't we really being cheated out of product?  Personally, I wish companies would leave quantities alone and just raise their prices.

Meanwhile, here's what we can do:

1. Compare unit prices between brands and sizes to find the cheapest one.
2. Buy store brands (before they shrink). Certain products like flour, sugar and dried beans are indistinguishable from a name brand.
3. Check drugstore chains.  Walgreens and Rite Aid have weekly sales on food and paper goods.
4. Stock up on stapes when they go on sale.
5. Buy in bulk when it makes sense.  Only if you use enough of a product, and it has a long shelf life is it a bargain.

Score one for team consumer: I'm skipping the 5.3 ounces of yogurt and the 11.3 ounces of ground coffee. Enough with not enough!!

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1 comment:

  1. When I studied economics, they called this "hidden inflation"- as most people did not agree with you about preferring prices to go up.

    I am not a big fan of buying in bulk where there is potential for spoilage, or where there is no easy storage option, so I am just resigned to these marketing practices. But on the yogurt front, there seem to be some thicky yummy (probably high calorie) brands around- mainly with real or imagined Greek names.