When pack sizes shrink why don’t their prices?

by , Senior Home Researcher Consumer Rights 19 March 2012
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Have you had suspicions that supermarket packs are shrinking? Well, we’ve trawled through a years worth of supermarket data to uncover the products that are shrinking – and their prices have stayed the same.

Shrinking products in hand

When we last asked you about this on Which? Conversation, you inundated us with examples of shrinking products.

So, we took these examples, along with the most commonly bought branded items, and checked whether their sizes had changed using data from independent grocery shopping site mysupermarket.co.uk.

We found a raft of products that had shrunk. Jars of Loyd Grossman Balti Curry Sauce have gone from 425g to 350g. Tubs of Dairylea Cheese Spread are 40g lighter. And there are two fewer nappies in a pack of Pampers Baby Dry Maxi.

In fact, we found shrinking products from most aisles of the supermarket – including laundry tablets, chicken, jam, dishwasher tablets, yoghurts and cereals.

But when we checked the prices of these smaller products, we found them for sale at the same price as before, or more per 100g, at the time the sizes changed.

What you think about shrinking products

We’ve had over 100 comments on our shrinking product Conversations, so what was said? Chris Fowler thinks manufacturers have something to answer for:

‘It is clear many manufacturers have changed the shape of bottles, jars and other containers to conceal the fact that the volume is smaller, and the weight of the product has gone down. So this process of reducing the amount of a product while keeping the price the same is underhand, and manufacturers are deliberately trying to hide it from consumers.’

Lovodale wants us to be more vocal about these pack size changes:

‘Manipulation of weights and measures instantly improves profits, confuses the public and there seems to be insufficient strong public opinion to bring about changes to a more open and honest industry.’

And KC sums up the anger felt by supermarket shoppers:

‘I don’t want to have to do a maths test to make sure I am not being ripped off every time I enter a supermarket.’

What did manufacturers and supermarkets say?

So we wanted to find out why manufacturers were shrinking their goods. When we asked, most said it was to keep prices down in the face of rising costs. Other companies said the product formulation had changed at the same time as the size.

And even though manufacturers told us that supermarkets dictated the final price, when we asked whether they had dropped the recommended retail price, those that answered said they hadn’t. As for the supermarkets themselves, they said manufacturers had reduced the sizes, and that they based their own prices on wholesale costs.

So, is shrinking a product an underhand way of raising prices? Would it be ok to shrink pack sizes if we were told about it? And what examples have you spotted?

What types of products have you seen shrinking?

Food (85%, 588 Votes)

Drinks (40%, 274 Votes)

Cleaning (36%, 252 Votes)

Beauty (18%, 124 Votes)

Other (share in comments) (12%, 82 Votes)

Total Voters: 691

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218 comments

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silverthread

Yeovalley sell 1L(1 3/4 pints) in addition to 2 pints bottles and sold by Sainsbury’s for £1. I have nothing against the size because for a single person like myself that can be quite handy. However, does that work out cheaper? Another change I noticed is that many pre-packed products are now sold in smaller quantities for £1. That looks cheaper, but are they? I haven’t time when shopping to use my calculator, but I wonder if this is just another gimmick.

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Marta Barbieri

I have noticed a lot of items in the supermarket have changed, but the biggest example is kitchen roll, this has shrunk by about 2 inches in width – first I thought I had bought a cheaper version, next time went out and bought my usual brand and it’s exactly the same size and looks stupid in my paper holder as it’s so much smaller! This is not the right way of going about things, I think we should still have our normal products and cheaper products which would explain the size and price

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wavechange

It must be over 20 years since I had this problem, Maria, so I had assumed that different brands used different sizes. Once you are aware of the problem it is easy to spot the difference. Kitchen roll is great for emergencies but even the cheaper brands are expensive. A cleaning cloth is a cheap and more environmentally satisfactory solution.

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laburnum

Reducing the content size and keeping the same retail price is much the same as a price rise. However this hidden increase to the real retail price may not be included in the governments inflation figures yet still reduces peoples earnings as they have to spend more for the same amount. . We really deserve more clarity if not honesty in pricing as the retailers are obviously exploiting people being too busy to check the price against size details.

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Springheeledjim

” We really deserve more clarity if not honesty in pricing as the retailers are obviously exploiting people being too busy to check the price against size details. ”

Exploiting people ? Really ? Is it the supermarket’s fault that you’re all busy ? The prices ( and the price per gram ) are all clearly displayed for us to see – what more can they do ?

It’s like saying ‘ it’s the bank’s fault that I didn’t have time to read the small print on the overdraft agreement ‘ or ‘ it’s the car dealer’s fault that I didn’t check the credit agreement properly ‘ .

It’s up to you. If these things are important to you, then make the time. Or, if you can’t be bothered, then at least don’t winge about it.

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clint kirk

“Really ? Is it the supermarket’s fault that you’re all busy ? The prices ( and the price per gram ) are all clearly displayed for us to see”

This would be ok in theory, but supermarkets don’t report prices in the same way for equivalent products – for instance, for one brand it’s price per gram, for another it’s price per biscuit. How are we supposed to compare that?

(The answer: look at the nutritional information, which reports both calories per 100 grams and calories per biscuit; work out the weight of a biscuit, then divide price per biscuit by weight of biscuit and get price per gram, which you can then compare with the other brand! Simple, isn’t it? Perhaps not.)

Furthermore, two years ago I spotted an incorrect price per kilogram for a product at Tesco. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera, otherwise I would have sent it in to Which? But from then on, I haven’t trusted the price per whatever on the shelf labels – instead, I do the calculation myself – just an approximate mental arithmetic is usually sufficient for a quick comparison. But that takes time and is not possible if you are in a hurry.

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silverthread

I guess i was a bit taken by surprise, wondering at first if the smaller sizes had something to do with being more ecological aware!! Now, I do as most commentators suggest, I watch out more carefully and buy according to needs rather than looks. I agree with some people suggesting that smaller quantities keep suppliers in business because they can sell their wares cheaper. For single people like me, the smaller quantities are welcome as buying for one or two had become quite a struggle. As long as we are not taken for a ride, I don’t mind and now I make sure that I am not wherever possible. We could also complain to superstores against the practice, if you like to take action. They may say it is not their responsibility but if we don’t buy the goods, they will put the pressure on for change.

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Ivor Burrow

Kettle Chips

Six packs have gone down to five packs at the same price

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Fedupcomplaining

I used to be a big fan of Dr. Stuart’s range of herbal teas. Good quality, if pricey. Recently though, they became much pricier. I used to pay £1.89 for a pack of 20 tea bags. Now, same pack, same price, but only 15 tea bags! At first, I thought there had been some mistake with the pack I had bought. Then I read the small print…the only change to the before and after packs being the reduction from 20 to 15. I contacted the Customer Care folk, but received the usual fob off…
I have now switched to a cheaper alternative.

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Steve S

So springheeledjim thinks he is the only one that understands the manufacturers plight and the rest of us are idiots and that we are still getting a good deal.What we all want is a clear choice.To me apart from the very big food conglomerates,its the supermarkets enforcing their margins and peddling that they are holding prices down or reducing your weekly shop price are the real culprits.Thats why Tesco abandoned their version of price guarantee because they were rarely the cheapest.The supermarkets often expect manufacturers and suppliers to subsidise offers they want to make so that they still keep their margin intact. And don’t get me started on so-called price reductions on fruit and veg when everyone knows fruit and veg prices go up and down depending on availabilty and seasons! Do what I do and become a ‘promiscuous’ shopper(their term not mine) be price savvy, shop in different stores for different things.By the way Aldi and Lidl do excellent fruit and veg at reasonable prices ,their products often come out very well on Which comparisons and some even do cash back on Debit cards as well as handle credit cards and I have never been in one that stinks.

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Springheeledjim

Of course I’m not the only one who understands the manufacturer’s plight. I just seemed to be the only one on here.

And you raise a very valid point about retailers and their margin expectations. I’ve been at manufacturers before when one of the retailers has phoned up and said ” Oh, you know the 50% margin we’ve been getting from you ? We now want 60%, or you’re delisted. ” Happens all the time.

And you’re also right – being a promiscuous shopper and hunting around for the best deals is probably the best way to make sure you get the cheapest deals you can. Very savvy.

But it’s the idiots on here who bleat that they are being ripped off that annoy me. In real terms some food in the supermarkets is actually cheaper than it was twenty years ago. What else can say that ? Cars ? Houses ? Fuel ?

And before you all say that ‘ All you want is clarity of information ‘ – packaged grocery is one of the most regulated areas there is. Everything is there for you – price, pence per gram, ingredients, calorie contents, % of GDAs etc…

Just think. If you buy a lasagne from tesco you have all that information right on the pack. You can even slide back the lid and look at the damn thing before you buy it. Whereas, if you go into a restaurant and order a lasagne, you don’t know how much it will weigh ( or even if it will be a reasonable portion or not ) what’s in it, how many calories – nothing.

I’m not saying that all manufacturers and retailers are whiter than white. But seriously, this is not the right target for complaining about. There are far worse crimes going on than losing two biscuits from your packet.

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ArgonautoftheSeas

Careful abt Lidl, bunch of Peruvian white asparagus sold there
at £1.99 when at greengrocers just a few doors away I could get
FOUR bunches for a pound and every bit as fresh.

Inconsistent pricing: in same outer London borough where I live
Mcennedy peanut butter 454g sold at £1.29 when at a different
branch no more than 2 miles away wd cost £1.78.

Their frankfurters 350g are good value at 99p and every bit as
tasty as those charged elsewhere at £2.49-£2.69 but I no longer
buy them due to their very high salt content.

Own brands at Lidl with very few exceptions nowhere quite
as good as the leading brands across a wide range of foodstuffs
and a bit cheaper but I longer buy them.

Lidl like all the main supermarkets w/out exception is guilty of
predatory or deceptive pricing.

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dereko

Interesting comments but at the end of the day shoppers put a certain amount of trust in stores over pricing and when product sizes are reduced without explanation then shoppers rightfully feel upset.

As springheeledjim has had past retail experience I would be grateful for his comments on the fact that supermarkets increase prices by around 20% from sept to december to take advantage of the christmas rush. I worked in my local store for a short while and was amazed when asked to go round putting price increases on hundreds of household items. I was told that they all do this in the the christmas run up as many people bulk buy and stock up at this time of year. Disgusting.

Perhaps which should do a report on this

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Springheeledjim

Interesting comment Dereko – but I’m still not sure I agree. How exactly are supermarkets / manufacturers supposed to explain reduced product sizes ? They can’t exactly put a label on saying ‘ this product is more expensive because of fuel increases, raw material increases etc. ‘ And even if they did, most shoppers wouldn’t care – as this thread shows, people are rarely interested in the underlying reasons for things, they just want to complain.

Also, bear in mind that while the supermarkets ultimately set the pricing, it’s the manufacturers who push through the price increases / pack size changes ( for the reasons I said earlier ) Is it right that the supermarkets should get the flak from customers for it ?

No, what happens in these cases is that the manufacturer changes the pack, tells the retailer, who changes the shelf price. Both of them keep quiet about it because they don’t want to draw any attention to it. The manufacturer keeps quiet because he doesn’t want you to start buying a different product instead. The retailer keeps quiet because he wants you to think his products are cheap, not expensive.

If it is a conspiracy ( as some on here seem to suggest ! ) then it is one that involves every manufacturer and every retailer in the land. I can’t think of any that don’t do it.

As for Xmas, I can honestly say that neither of the big 2 retailers I’ve worked at have done that. They may well introduce some premium packs to take advantage of trading up ( ie. special ham, special biscuits etc ) but I’ve never seen them change the price of std items just to take advantage.

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frugal ways

Jim,
Why do you think it is that supermarket’s will not stock “price marked” packs produced by manufacturers?
Andrex 2 & 4 packs have been price marked at a reduced rate for months (cash & carry), but asda and tesco will not stock them and charge a higher price.

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m.

Consumers left the High streets in droves and ran to the supermarkets, looking for cheap & convenient foods, one stop shopping they called it. Now the Supermarkets have killed the High street, with Tesco Local driving the final nail into the High Streets Coffin, the supermarkets can now do as they will and all are reaping the cooperate rewards for the consumers abandonment of traditional shopping.
Supermarkets are not there to save you money, they are there to make profits.

If supermarkets where really consumer friendly then half of the pap on their shelves masquerading as food they would be banned!

I still shop local, use the local butcher, as I know where he gets his meat, I don’t know what I am buying from the supermarket. I use the local greengrocer and in season I go ‘pick your own’ ( I am fortunate enough to have farms close by so get fresh eggs etc….) I get bread from the baker.
the advantages are.
I only buy what I go in for, I am not tempted by special offers or ‘buy me now save money later offers’
Friendly personalised service.
If I forget to take money, no problem, pay next time.
I get to try new lines first, if I like then I can buy.
I am supporting my community, not a faceless cooperation.
And most important of all..it is actually cheaper than buying at a supermarket.
I will only go to the supermarket as a last alternative, with a list I stick to. I have not visited one at all this year.

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Wiglets

I enjoy cans of beer, but have noticed recently that most cans are now 440ml instead of 500ml but the price has actually increased. What a con!!

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Martin Craddock

Picked uo a jar of Douwe Egberts Instant Coffee in my local Tesco last night. It was on an end of Row stand where the offers are where it was prominently marked £4 200gm £20 per kg. A good offer I thought and I noticed was it matched in the aisle by Nescafe also at £4 for 200gm.
When I took the jar out of my trolley at check-out I noticed that the jar size was actually 190gm. When I drew this to the attention of the duty manager she did go and check whether I was correct (which I was) and was rather defensive advising me that all the others (brands) were 200gm and they did not stock a Douwe Egberts 200gm jar. No apology or offer to reduce the price to £3.80 which is the pro rata cost at £20 kg.
This seems to be an example of the manufacturer shrinking the product without even the retailer knowing about it!
Heaven help the consumer!

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David

SpringHeeledJim

Business has both a right and an expectation to make a profit; it is after all what keeps our mortgages paid.

If I may be so bold, I think what you should be doing here is looking past what is said and thinking more about the sentiments expressed.

We are all supposedly in the same boat with times being hard across the board. In a ‘fair’ society each element of society would take its share of the pain. What hisses me off is that supermarkets are not prepared to participate in that scenario. Even tho times are hard and everyone is hard pressed they push, bully, cajole and lie to not only keep margins at previous levels but grow then beyond what is reasonable for the financial climate.

It’s rarely ‘what’ you do that upsets; its nearly always ‘how’ you do it. By forcing worse terms on suppliers (and staff) they simply reinforce the widely held belief that they are lying cheating scoundrels.

Manufacturers are being forced into this reformulation and re-sizing nonsense by the greedy supermarkets. The supermarkets then turn round and say “its not us the manufacturers have reduced this etc” trying to make out as if they give a damn.

We are in it up to our necks. We are all suffering and yet greedy, lying, cheating swines like Tescos and Morrisons simply refuse to be part of our collective and only ever want MORE.

Try looking at it from both sides. Everyone is right really it just depends how one approches it at a particular point.

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Springheeledjim

Hi David

You make some interesting points. And I am trying to look at it from both sides. In fact, ( as I’ve already said ) I’m well aware that all the major supermarkets indulge in some very dodgy practices.

I don’t think we can blame them for the manufacturers changing pack sizes though. In fact, I don’t think ( despite all the angst being tossed around on this thread ) that anyone is to blame. The material costs go up, the manufacturer fiddles with the pack size, the retailers keep quiet about it – is anyone in that scenario really culpable ?

And I also don’t get this idea that we should all be in it together. The purpose of a business is to make money. Simple. The ones who do it well survive, the ones who don’t go under. How is a supermarket to ‘ take its share of the pain ‘ exactly ? By giving to charity ? All of them do that. By reducing prices ? All of them do that too. By announcing 20,000 new jobs ( like Tesco just did ) ? Isn’t that doing their bit too ?

Seriously – I would be very interested in exactly what you think they could do to ‘ be part of our collective ‘ .

People give supermarkets a hard time because they see them making big profits and opening new stores. But they forget the crucial point in all this: supermarkets only work if people want to shop in them. If they stopped shopping there then they would all fold and people could go back to the little independents that they supposedly love.

I just think it’s become fashionable to criticise major supermarkets. But I can guarantee that everyone who has posted on this thread has shopped in one of the big 4 at some point.

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frugal ways

“And I also don’t get this idea that we should all be in it together. The purpose of a business is to make money. Simple. The ones who do it well survive, the ones who don’t go under. How is a supermarket to ‘ take its share of the pain ‘ exactly ? By giving to charity ? All of them do that. By reducing prices ? All of them do that too. By announcing 20,000 new jobs ( like Tesco just did ) ? Isn’t that doing their bit too ?”

- The purpose of a business is to make money
What chance has a local independant (or a small town centre for that matter) against a supermarket that has huge financial power, priviledged planning permission that independants can only dream of, immunity from regulation/enforcement and inspections because of their “compliant” status with regulators and trading standards (which only act in an advisory role)?
Supermarkets move into an area undercutting all of the local competition – once competition starts closing down and selling up they increase their prices using demographics and customer data.
Where I live, there are 2 tescos within 2 miles. A customer noticed that their petrol prices at both sites differed and asked the manager of the more expensive store why this was, as both were supplied by the same tanker on the same days delivery.
The manager informed him that the price was higher at his store as there wasn’t as much competition in the immediate area.
Is this looking after their customers?

- The ones who do it well survive – I agree, but there isn’t a level playing field.
Can a local independant get planning permission to have the entry road changed to a traffic light junction and those traffic lights are set up to favour the business? (Just as our nearest asda have done)

- Giving to charity? They all do that
Tax deductable and the charity donations come from the profits made at the expense of the customer via their products.
I’m sick of seeing big cheques presented on TV by supermarkets with the claims “we raised xxx amount” – when in fact it comes from customer’s pockets.
There is one big supermarket that I know of which are involved in recycling on their sites, making big profits from that also.

- By reducing their prices?
Price “reductions” are often from the prices that the supermarket themselves increased, often to a level of what they had never been before.

- By announcing 20,000 new jobs (as tesco just did)
There are reports out there showing that supermarket job numbers are not always what they claim.
What about the jobs vanishing from the local shops and stores? Jobs disappearing from local tourism? (Would you visit a town just to have a look around their big supermarket?) Jobs going from manufacturers, farms, etc.
It’s almost impossible to count the supermarket’s will say, only if you don’t want people to see the real picture.

It’s not fashionable to give them a hard time.
They are not regulated/inspected, they are given favourable planning consent, they have systematically destroyed town centres around the country taking money from local economies and handing it to shareholders. Supermarkets are one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions, polution and landfill, yet face no penalties or legislation to improve it.

Ironic, asda will be spending more than £4 Million this year (made at the expense of the customer) on marketing how each store is “local”
One request for you Jim if you please, email your local trading standards and ask them how many random inspections (by this I mean not “speaking to the supermarket’s head office” or asking permission from the TS in that area) they have carried out on local supermarkets in the last, say 2 years?
You’ll be lucky if there is a single one!

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Springheeledjim

Hi frugal ways

I would agree with you that planning consent is one of the areas where I am uncomfortable with what the big supermarkets do. And I’ve never understood why a medium sized town needs one of each of the big 4 – surely the residents have enough choice with one or two ? But again, you can hardly blame the supermarkets for wanting to increase their estate – surely some of the blame should go to the town councils for granting permission ?

As for increasing prices in different areas – I can categorically state that the two I have worked for don’t do this. They can’t – the systems aren’t set up that way. Plus everything is online now – so you have to have the same price in every store and on dotcom. Petrol is different – but differential petrol pricing is common across the country ( and one of my big complaints – why should it be 5p a litre more expensive in the south ? ? )

As for giving to charity – yes, often supermarkets will collect in store for charities etc, but they also dig quite deeply into their own pockets. Yes, it comes from profits, and you could argue that the customers buy the food that makes the profits, but the supermarkets donate it all the same. No-one forces them to.

On price discounts – again, I’d agree with you. There is legislation to say that before a retailer can advertise a price cut, it needs to have been sold at the higher price for a period of time ( I think it’s four weeks ) beforehand. But there’s certainly nothing to stop them putting the price up, then reducing it again and calling it a price cut. I can only say what I’ve been saying elsewhere on this thread – consumers shouldn’t necessarily believe everything they read, and take nothing at face value. It may well be sharp practice ( I used to hate Asda’s rollbacks – often only 2 or 3p per product ! ) but it’s not illegal.

As for announcing new jobs – well, you can’t argue that many of these supermarkets are amongst the biggest employers in the country. And I don’t think you can blame them for the demise of local shops, employers etc – if they’d been good enough, they would still be in business.

I guess the point I’m making with all of this – is that the supermarkets are not the ones to blame here. They have only been responding to market demand for cheap, convenient, decent quality food. As consumers, the power is with us. If we didn’t shop with them, they would close within weeks. But ( and I repeat what I said earlier : show me anyone on this thread who has never shopped with one of the big 4 ) as consumers we love supermarkets. We love the convenience of having everything under one roof. We love the decent food, and ( in most cases ) reasonable prices. As well as the added benefits – financial services, cheap DVD’s, electricals etc. Internet shopping and home delivery ? Who did that before supermarkets ? No-one.

I’m a single parent, who works 9-5 five days a week. Do I have time to go round the town centre on a saturday morning, going from greengrocer to butcher to baker ? Do I have the time to price check everything I buy ?

No. So I do what millions of other people in the UK do – I trundle off to my nearest supermarket ( conveniently situated between my home and my office, so i can call in on my way home ) and get everything I need in one go. I don’t bother checking prices – some have gone up, some have come down – but I know that mostly it’s pretty cheap. And they have everything I want – fresh food, tinned food, frozen… maybe pick up a DVD to watch with the kids ( for £5 ! Bargain ! ) .. a couple of bottles of wine ( normally on 3 for £10 – that’s another good deal. )

And you know what – I love it. My life would be substantially harder without a decent supermarket nearby. And – judging by the footfall they get – I suspect most people in the UK would agree with me.

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Hoodie

Cathedral City Cheese – was 400gr now 350 gr- price still £3.99- often the cheese that features in BOGOF
Packaging still same size!!!

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Springheeledjim

Oh, so it’s come down 50 grams ? And you’re complaining ?

But hang on – you also say this is the cheese that often features in BOGOF ? As in Buy one get one free ?

So the manufacturer and the supermarket dig into their own pockets to offer you a great promotion ( you have to admit, Buy One Get One Free is a pretty good deal ) and YOU’RE STILL COMPLAINING ?

I think this illustrates everything that’s wrong with people today. Even when you get things for free, you’re still not happy.

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BenJie

Dept of health campaign to reduce calories gives companies a further excuse to shrink portions. For those who are not obese and do not over-indulge this is a further penalty.

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S Skitch

Cadbury’s cream eggs have also shrunk considerably and are now little more than a mouthful but have also risen in price. I don ‘t buy them anymore for my family.

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kevin

Cheese has been reduced to 360gms from 400 but prices remain at higher previous level.Also inflated price on 2 for 1 offers which leaves me to question if I am only getting 1 for 1.have shifted to Aldi in preference to the big supermarkets which are to clever for their own good.

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Crazytrucker

There was an article in the online Daily Mail sometime ago, no I’m not a reader as such just their misleading and panic inducing headlines. It stated are we being conned?
The majority of the replies all agreed with me, tell us something we don’t know, not only the DM but do the manufacturers and the supermarkets think that we all have the average or below average intelligence of a DM reader not to notice? Do they honestly believe we won’t notice these things?
I may be green but I’m no cabbage! Just another not so subtle way of ripping us off! For example, I occasionally purchase value cooked chicken pieces for me and as treats for the dog when out. A year ago this pack was £1:45 ish, then in one go whoosh £2:50! Within the last couple of weeks they have re-appeared on Morrisons shelves at £1:80! However, my good fortune at spotting a bargain was short lived when one of my lady friends who works there informed me that the package contained less chicken than a year ago when it was £1:45.
As another reader/writer has stated I don’t want to go shopping having to do maths in case I’m being ripped off, then the old addage rings true, if it looks like a rip-off then it most likely is, oh, sorry if it looks too good to be true it probably is!

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r shapland

look at sweets i have a MACKINTOSH tin you can get 3 of todays tins in it ROLO s they are like tiny pills now and the toffee is like glue i am afraid i dont eat uk choc now

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Ken Grahame

Asda pulled a nice one over the last few months with their “I can’t believe its not butter”. Having been around £1.25 for 500g, it appeared as a “rollback” for a couple of months at £1.00, then briefly went up again for a couple of weeks, before re-appearing again at £1.00 – not as a “rollback”, but as a smaller pack! 400g, or 20% less to be precise – exactly matching the APPARENT drop in price from £1.25. If people really arn’t so stupid as to not notice, surely Asda can’t be so stupid as to think they can get away with it?

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R

Eggs! The Large or Extra Large Eggs seem so small that they appear to be the size of what used to be considered medium sized eggs. What’s going on?

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themajor

One must not be too negative about this.If manufacturers to not make a fat profit how else can they provide donations for their favourite political party? Not to forget a Knighthood for the CEO etc.

Well, it was you who voted for the same three or four old boring parties who like the manufacturers all do the same thing?

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Edward Coyle

Douwe Egberts instant coffee jars now contain 190g of coffee compared with 200g previously.
Farcical, because the glass jar in which this product comes has not reduced in size.

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Bob

I have spent an hour or so wading through the various comments whilst at the same time reflecting on my fifty-plus year old daughter’s youthful sagacity. In her teens she introduced us to her own shopping indicator which she called “the Mars bar index”. Even at that time Mars came in a paper covering with an decent space around the chocolate and every few months we would notice that there was more room in the packet. Soon enough, as stocks of wrappers were used up, the new packets once again fitted the current, reduced size, Mars bars. Although I have not kept any 35 year old Mars packets for comparison purposes I suspect they are about a third bigger than todays (and we I guess we are currently awaiting a delivery of new packets to judge by the room around the current size bars!)

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mrsjfm

My vacuum cleaner bags have not only gone up a lot in price, but there are now only 4 to a box instead of five. My pet gripe is that margarine tubs have suddenly only got 400 grams in – there are 6 of us in the family and a large tub is essential. And I even noticed the other day that pasta is shorter! To my knowledge, one of these things have ever been brought to the attention of customers. Deceitful!

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Badgesett

I bought some tracker bars the other day and was amazed at how they had shrunk. I don’t buy these very often but they appeared to be 30-40% smaller than a few years ago – barely enough to keep a sparrow alive!
I have noticed that car engine oil has shrunk from 5 litres to 4 litres on certain brands, so be warned!

All the major supermarkets are greed merchants. Ultimately it’s the bottom line of the balance sheet that the Board of Directors and shareholders are bothered about. If the law were to allow supermarkets to stay open 24 hours a day 365/6 days a year they would do so because its more money in the coffers. I happen to use supermarkets regularly because of accessibility and convenience, however I’m very selective and will use a local butcher for meat and eggs.
Having owned a small bookshop, it was patently obvious that I was trading on an uneven playing field. A small business will never compete with the “big boys” or the internet as “buying power” will win the day. You can offer a first class service to your customers, but if the price isn’t cheap enough, the majority of customers will go elsewhere. I used to buy some of my stock such as The Guinness Book of Records from my local WH Smiths as the price was £2 cheaper than my wholesaler’s price! It might explain why small businesses are disappearing fast from our High Streets.

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Spade

I have been noticing this down-sizing for some time now.

For example, Waitrose has started to shrink the size and number of its pre-packed apples. Where once they sold packets of eight Braeburns of a moderate size, they are now selling six smaller apples for the same price. I have also noticed that almost anything in a packet has reduced in quantity. Crisps barely fill two thirds of the space in a small packet. Chocolate bars are rapidly losing weight.

Even Amateur Photographer was down from 90 to 82 pages in last week’s edition! And the price was the same. Almost ten percent savings on paper and printing costs.

What is going on? Manufacturers and supermarkets can claim with hand on heart that they haven’t raised prices. But this selling us short is a sneaky way of increasing income. Isn’t it time the OFT made some serious inquiries into this?

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John Ward

We have North London to thank for this! We all knew the price of groceries and provisions when they were sold loose. Self-service shopping came along and changed everything. David Greig’s converted their store in Turnpike Lane N8 to self-service in 1923. It was not a success and the store reverted to the traditional style. In 1948 Marks & Spencer opened the first serious self-service grocery department at their High Road Wood Green, N22 store [coincidentally very close to Turnpike Lane]. The idea caught on, especially with Cooperative societies [London Coop at East Ham and Portsea Island Coop at Portsmouth, both 1948]. Initially, packaging was standardised across products by weight or volume so it was easy to keep a check on prices. For some foodstuffs there were regulated sizes to ensure comparability. For all pre-packed products, the only variables were quality or formulation and price. Once the regulations were abandoned, and packaging techniques became more sophisticated, it became possible to vary the contents more easily. ‘Deceptive’ packaging has ensured that the consumer remains confused. Combined with offers, BOGOFs and multi-buys it is now a minefield. I sometimes wonder how the people who produce the cost of living indices cope with the continuously changing variables – do they reduce everything in their ‘standard shopping basket’ to unit prices?

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Spring heeled Jim

This thread seems to have rumbled on and on…. so before I go and find something more interesting to do, I thought I’d try and summarise where we are:

1) Products are getting smaller. Yes, they are. There are numerous examples on this thread, as well as several hundred more that no-one has mentioned yet.

2) Supermarkets are doing this in order to make even more profit. It’s a rip-off. No. In the vast majority of cases, the pack size changes are made by the manufacturers, who in turn are responding to massive cost price increases. Actually, the retailers ( who like to be known for lowering prices, not raising prices ) would prefer it if the packs got bigger / prices got lower.

3) It’s dishonest. Well, if you mean ‘ they did this without telling me ‘ then yes it is. Supermarkets are very quick to shout about price cuts ( even by a few pence ) but far less quick to shout about price increases. Which is only logical if you think about it. I can’t think of any retailers of any kind that would shout about prices going up. And all the prices ( and the price per g / litre etc ) are displayed on the shelf-edge label.

4) It’s a con. I’d rather they put the price up. Really ? In research a lot of people said exactly the opposite. In any case, reducing the pack size is less obvious than putting the price up, so the manufacturer loses less volume. It may be sneaky, but it’s good business sense. And it’s certainly not a con.

5) I’m far too busy to check every single price. Who isn’t ? But is that the supermarkets’ fault ? Are you ‘ far too busy ‘ to check the small print on loan agreements ?

6) The supermarkets are far too big and greedy. There’s certainly some truth in that. But ‘ big ‘ is only a result of ‘ popular and successful ‘ and ‘ greedy ‘ is only another way of saying ‘ hungry for growth ‘ – which every business is.

7) The supermarkets get preferential treatment in planning permission cases. This is possibly also true. You can hardly blame them for trying though – and are the town councils blameless in this ?

8) The supermarkets are killing the high st. I can see the truth in this too. But again, it’s all market forces. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SUPERMARKETS, DON’T SHOP THERE. And – IF NO-ONE SHOPPED THERE THEY WOULD CLOSE AND YOU COULD GET YOUR INDEPENDENT STORES BACK. Really, we as consumers are to blame – if we didn’t like supermarkets so much they wouldn’t exist.

9) It’s confusing enough already – but then they put it on offer to make it even more confusing ! Yes, yes they do. But think about it. Are they legally obliged to offer you these deals ? Are we becoming so spoiled as consumers that we feel entitled to Buy One Get One Free offers etc ? Often manufacturers and retailers take a massive hit on margin to offer you these deals. And you complain that they make it confusing for you ???

10) To get the best deals you have to shop around. Yes, yes you do. And I would encourage everyone to do that. All the major supermarkets have different deals at different times. If you have the time to shop around, there are some good bargains to be had.

11) Supermarkets raise their prices at Xmas to con us. Actually, I’m pretty sure they don’t.

12) Supermarkets change their prices in different areas. Only on petrol. Elsewhere their systems don’t support different regional pricing.

13) These are difficult times. Supermarkets should be doing more to help. Why ? Supermarkets are businesses. Businesses exist to make profit. All the major supermarkets tell you that they’re lowering prices ( and giving money to charity ) to make things easier. You might treat these claims with suspicion – but it’s still more than a lot of other businesses are doing.

Hope that’s cleared it up for everyone…

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wavechange

Supermarkets have taken over from independents because they can buy goods at lower prices and afford to sell them at prices the independents cannot compete with. Supermarkets do what they can get away with and if they start to upset their customers too much there is ample opportunity to make changes and regain lost customers.

You say that supermarkets do not have different prices in different areas. Whether or not this is true, there are other ways of varying costs – such as different offers and different goods on sale.

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John Ward

Thank you Jim for your contributions and for summarising the issues. However, I think we’ll be keeping this Conversation going for some time longer because there are several points of view to explore. If nothing else, Which? Conversation proves that there is no such thing as a definitive conclusion.

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Andi

I have found supermarkets themselves are reducing the size of their prepacked veg, Tesco for example have reduced the size of a pack of beansprouts from 500g to 410g, obviously the packaging has stayed the same to hide the fact its changed. I know this is a petty one to complain about, but as a first year student the price of things going up is killing me! And takes up a bigger chunk of my money each week.
Something needs to be done about this, companies shouldn’t be able to get away with it! And especially not Tesco because they are the worst supermarket in the history of supermarkets!

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Charlie Reed

I used to have a job ‘shoe-horning’ my HOVIS SOFT WHITE loaf into my ‘Lock Lock’ 4L food container. I used to use a wooden spatula, now it just slides in easily.

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Dodee

I have noticed toilet roll sheets are getting smaller. Like the kitchen roll, the toilet rolls only fit three quarters of the way across my toilet roll holder, and many break up so easily we might as well
not use any!!
Many chocolate bars have shrunk considerably, perhaps to help with the lower fat content!!

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SallyLou

Well Jim you ought to be a politician, keep us all dumbed down and treated like mushrooms.
You have decided for the rest of us so you MUST be correct, and you have decided this discussion has come to an end, even though WHICH themselves actually started it, but what do they know?
Let us kowtow to you instead.
We must all be wrong. We clearly know nothing compared to your superior wisdom.
It is not the supermarkets, or manufacturers deceiving us after all, we are just deluding and deceiving ourselves.
And next time I go to the same supermarket elsewhere and see my eyes telling me the same thing that they have told me before and that others have mentioned here, that the prices are different on the same brand, I will remember you and let your words be final once again, you are right I am wrong.
And of course the supermarkets dont put the prices up at Christmas, that too is another delusion.
Also It is perfectly natural and innocent of the supermarkets to suddenly shrink their sizes, I must not complain if this happens and I do not notice, even when this natural and totally just occurence means there will be no product left in the end.
This is their right too. It is not a con, they are not deceiving us by hiding this from us. Their intentions are purely honourable and in accordance with good business practise.
We are only upset because they are doing so well.
Just like the politicians of COURSE they are right too and never lie or cheat, they would never con us or rip us off either, and they all have the best lawyers and pr men to prove it, even those in their own parties.
The rest of us must just shut up and listen and be told.
We know nothing, we are just idiots out to have a good moan

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Spring heeled Jim

Aw shucks, Sally lou, you don’t have to thank me. I’m just Happy to Help….

I didnt intend to try and end the discussion – you can all witter on about 100g of beans becoming 90g of beans for as long as you like; it’s no skin off my nose. ( though, on that subject – Walkers Crisps – are they taking the p*ss ? ? )

What I was trying to do was bring a little balance to the discussion ( and Which – if you think this is a debate, you are kidding yourselves. I have never seen such a one-sided thread )

And if you’ve read what I wrote, you’ll have seen that I did concede that the supermarkets do indulge in some sharp practices ( I think there are certainly issues around planning permission and the way supermarkets are allowed to deal with suppliers ) Whiter than white they are not.

But a lot of what has been said on this thread is just garbage. And I wanted to set the record straight.

After all, I have over twenty years experience in Retail and Manufacturing. From the Retailer side, I’ve sat in pricing committees, planned promotions and promotional space, sat in on negotiations with suppliers, and produced advertising. From the Manufacturer side, I’ve looked at product P&Ls, run what they call ‘ value engineering ‘ projects ( that’s ‘ making it smaller and / or cheaper ‘ to you and me ) and fought to stave off price increases.

But hey, I’m sure you’re not interested in my credentials. After all, who wants to let the truth get in the way of a good moan ?

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SallyLou

Firstly I did not THANK you Jim, nor do I need to hear about or see your credentials to form my own opinion, nor do the others on here. I wouldve and already had established you worked on the inside It was not difficult to ascertain that fact, you have ALL the knowledge and know all the talk and strut the strut and play the ego trip from your overblown patronising attitude.
I could say I think YOU are the one who is ‘wittering’ and moaning and all the other derogatory comments you have written here, because you believe yourself to be so superior. You think YOU are the only one here with experience and who is telling the truth?! So the rest of us are now liars aswell as moaners and fools.
You say the rest of the comments here are ‘one sided’ how so? Did it ever occur to you to actually listen to the customers and indeed any other voice other than your own? (I would say YOURS is one sided actually)
Do you not thnk that so many comments here saying the same thing could perhaps be the TRUTH instead of your own.
As I said Jim you would make a great politician too, you have all the right credentials for THAT position and lets add the most important one of all, you too do not live in the real world.
You do not LISTEN or take on board what the rest of us are saying, but speak like we are all beneath you and unimportant idiots. Another great credential

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Spring heeled Jim

Aww you weren’t thanking me ? Shame. It’s not too late if you want to though ?

I don’t believe myself to be superior at all; far from it. But like you say – I do have the knowledge on this. Just as I wouldn’t go on a thread about flying and argue with a pilot, is it so hard for people on here to recognise that I do have experience here, and I do know what I’m talking about ?

And I am trying ( hard ! ) to recognise the validity of others’ points. I fully accept that pack sizes are shrinking, I fully accept that supermarkets and manufacturers do engage in sharp practices, and that as shoppers we all need to have our wits about us when we fill our baskets. I’m not seeing much of this courtesy in return however.

And I’m sorry to have to say this, but I do know what the truth is on this. Many other comments disagreeing with me won’t make it any less so. This is why my experience is relevant – I seem to be the only one on here who has actually worked at any of these places and knows what goes on ! ( though I’ll happily be contradicted if any of the rest of you have worked in a retail head office ? )

Anyway, I am going to bow out now. Not because I feel in any way cowed or beaten, but because I can see that I’m not going to change your minds on this. You’re determined to feel that you’re being conned and lied to. That’s fine; you are all perfectly free to believe what you want.

I don’t mind a good debate – but this isn’t it.

Hello Spring Heeled Jim and SallyLou, this exchange is getting far too personal. Please respect each others opinions, and when presenting your views to others please don’t call them ‘idiots’ for not agreeing with you. This doesn’t help the debate, nor does it warm others to your point of view. Stick to our commenting guidelines and the debate will be more civil. Any further comments that are about other commenters, rather than the points they make, will be removed. Thanks, Patrick.

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Ken Grahame

There’s a very good reason why this debate is so one sided. As I walk around the supermarket I don’t see the shelves bursting with all the extra materials they have put in them without telling us, and my fridge and cupboards at home don’t seem to struggle either, but like pretty much everyone on here, I do see that my bags are lighter than they once were.
Maybe I’m missing something, so I issue a challenge to all you good people, let’s indeed try and restore some balance – how about posting all the examples you can find where quantities have increased – not including examples where the supermarket/manufacturer have covered it in a fanfare of publicity pointing out their generosity! No, just those examples where they have kindly, generously, and modestly given us more for our money, as opposed to meanly, sneakily, and greedily given us less.

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Phil B

Several commenters have pointed out that these hidden price increases may be fooling not just consumers, but also the statisticians who compile the inflation indices. I suspect that the government would not be too upset by this, as they want to keep the published inflation figures as low as possible in order to reduce the level of increases in pay, pensions and benefits. (This is why they switched from RPI to CPI.)
I would like to see Which? looking into this aspect.

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Gretal

Sainsurys & M&S (& no doubt others, but these are the only places I’ve bought from) – both have reduced the size of their bunches of daffodils from 10 to 8 stems. Previously of course flowers used to sold by the dozen…I suspect this mainly goes unnoticed as they tend to sell 2 bunches bundled together, occasionally as ‘BOGOF’.

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Badgesett

I agree entirely with M.’s comments.
Supermarkets are out to make as much profit for the Board of Directors and shareholders as possible. They are never content with making a fair or reasonable profit. Their aim is to exceed the previous year’s profit by some margin, otherwise questions are asked. In short Mammon comes first and the consumer second.
Supermarkets are also guilty of sharp practices, such as buying up wasteland and brownfield sites with a view to future development and the hope that a local council will kowtow to their wishes.
Woe betide councils that turn down planning applications as no one should have the temerity to stand in the way of their relentless expansion. Should a planning application be refused that’s not the end of it, as they will fight tooth and nail to get their goal. Sweeteners such a improving the local community usually end up swaying a council into submission.
I am guilty as the next person in that I use a couple of supermarkets regularly. The reason is competition has all but vanished, and the convenience of free parking and open till late are a great attraction.
It’s all very well people saying that if we stopped using supermarkets they would disappear. It’s the small independents in most towns and cities that have vanished because they have been squeezed out by the supermarket giants.

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Crazytrucker

In our small town we have a fair sized Co-op, a smallis Morrisons and a Lidl, the latter two being out of the main town centre, Tosco have one of thier Express things in the town centre.
Aided and abetted by Trinity College, Cambridge, Tosco has bludgeoned it’s way into a greenfield site with promises of this that and the other, and our local council lacking a spine of any sort caved into the pressure. Nobody wants it, but we are going to get it, we have two or three parks, so room enough for Asda, Sainsbury and Waitrose to move in also, though I may be doing an injustice to the latter company as you don’t often hear of them using bully-boy tactics.
Cynical? Moi?
You bet I’m cynical, bloody old and bloody cynical! In many ways I loathe this country, greed, Thatcherist greed still lives and it will destroy us. It seems that if you have enough of the folding stuff you can just about get anything you want built just about anywhere you want it, there’s always a cabul of dodgy councillors to help you achieve your desired aims, certainly in this locale which will remain nameless through fear of litigation that I can not afford.

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SallyLou

Badgesett, you make some very valid points here. Most of which I do not believe have been mentioned here.

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Bluebox

I was wandering around Tesco a few days ago ( after reading this article) and though that the Oil of Olay was on a good promotion – 1/3rd off. I must have been thinking that it was too good to be true as when I looked at the packaging it was a third smaller, 37g opposed to the standard 50g. The box looked the same size though. I still bought it, but it was nice to know for myself that it was not really a bargin. I still have to go back though as they charged me full price!

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Allan

Now the English strawberry season is starting again I will be watching out for the pack sizes . Often the price remains the same but the number of grams per pack reduces yet the price per Kilo remains the same on the label. So making a comparison per kilo for a range of soft fruits impossible to work out.
Surely this must be an offence to give incorrect Kilo pricing.
Also watch out for Tesco Raw frozen shell off prawns. Often on a special price yet the sizes vary from 300 grams down to 250 grams , quite a difference in size so not always the bargain you think .

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