/ Food & Drink, Shopping

When pack sizes shrink why don’t their prices?

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.

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 (45%, 588 Votes)

Drinks (21%, 274 Votes)

Cleaning (19%, 252 Votes)

Beauty (9%, 124 Votes)

Other (share in comments) (6%, 82 Votes)

Total Voters: 691

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Dave says:
25 April 2013

What surprises me is that nobody has mentioned the impact of the packaging when the weight or volume of am item is reduced.
In some cases the packaging remains the same but the volume or weight of product is reduced.
In all cases when the weight or volume of the product is reduced we, as consumers are:

Paying, in proportion, more for the packaging than the product.
Paying for the retooling/redesign/reprinting when the packaging changes in any way.
Paying for more packaging to be transported around the country (If the size is reduced more items can be carried by the lorries, which means more packaging than product is transported per lorry load.)

All this results in a higher cost for the company per kilogram or litre of product produced. This in turn is passed onto the consumer which increases inflation and so the spiral upwards continues.

In addition different pack sizes then have an impact on the supermarket, in their distribution centres, logistics, storerooms and on their shelves as the new sizes have to be accommodated, increasing the supermarket costs. These costs are also then picked up by the consumers,

Malc.Moore says:
18 October 2013

Well said Dave we have to many heavy foreign HGV lorries on our motorways.Very well written about increase in travel costs our political parties should reopen some provincial shipping ports its nonsense to have Polish lorries docking at Dover driving all the way up as far as Scotland.If or when HS2 ever gets built will it carry freight i think not.If any party had any sense reopening Lowest oft;Hull;Liverpool;Newcastle;to more shipping freight would redistribute a little wealth from busy Dover&folk-stone;Portsmouth;Southampton;Plymouth other southern ports.Bringing much needed jobs to areas of high unemployment.A lot of food these days is imported and as you put well said the sizes get small leads to higher transport costs which at the end of the day is all passed on to struggling families.Will the Tories back reopening provincial ports no because most of their voters are South of the midlands the North&Scotland..

Tom Morris says:
6 May 2013

Here’s an unusual example of a hidden price rise.

Up to about a month ago Sainsbury’s were selling a multi-pack of McCain’s Microwave chips with 4 x 100g at £1.75. Now, in their Woolwich branch, they are only selling a pack of 2 x 100g for £1. An increase of 25p for 400g. It is still showing 4 x100g on their website.

I presume that, as they are different sizes, it wouldn’t show up on any Price Check.

Much as I despise Tesco’s, I held my nose and bought the 4 x 100g for £1.75 there yesterday.

Ann Beech says:
1 August 2013

I have been into Boots this morning to replace a pot of Blusher makeup. Lat year in contained 5 grms and cost £6.95, the one I bought today contained 3gms and cost £8.00
Now that really IS a ripoff!!

Malc.Moore says:
18 October 2013

To-days shop in Sainsbury Urmston;Manchester was a short one.I always buy some eating Apples. I was shocked at the size of them many were the size of golf balls.Great for those who want them for their child’s lunchbox or women who hardly eats to remain skinny.The only ones of any size were the large cooking apples.Supermarkets get smaller apples at a cheaper price but that is not passed on to the customer.I know this is a FACT because i found an official note saying Class B apples.So sainsbury lost money to-day on my shop because if i am unhappy and have to go to another supermarket i buy less and leave the store.Supermarkets buy by weight and really do not check the size all profit driven but customers can do what i did.If they cannot be bothered to stock what an average adult wants go to another store.If one asks a manager he/she replies we have to accept what they send to us.This did not happen when we had many small fruit and veg shops because the store owner was axious to retain your custom.Sainburys have dropped their price on Frozen Family pies but they are still 89p more expensive than majority of their competitors at an average of £1.99 or £2.00 ASDA £2.50 i never go Tesco because theirs have less meat around only 24% but there price is usually higher £2.99+ more money for less.
customers have the answer is simple take your custom elsewhere like me.

Paul W says:
18 March 2015

Most comments deal with food and shrinking pack sizes however have Which looked at toilet rolls ?
It is noticeable that they have reduced in width, not by very much, but a millimeter reduction means a “free” full roll every 100 for the manufacturer.
When I built shelves in the airing cupboard to take toilet rolls a 2 roll height just fitted now there is room to spare.


Thanks Paul, I’ll forward your observation to our researchers 🙂

Jeffrey Ledger says:
13 April 2015

In a true, fair, competitive marketplace this would not be happening unless there was widespread collusion. Surely a case for Government intervention before this becomes a national scandal. In some cases, the shrinkage is unbelievable. Take the Chunky Kit Kat for example, must have reduced by 33% from the original. Nothing more than theft!