/ Food & Drink, Money, Shopping

Products are shrinking – so why aren’t prices?

Have you noticed certain items shrinking in size? We have, and the price doesn’t always shrink accordingly. But we’ve also found some good value Best Buys from our tests, proving that shopping doesn’t have to go up.

The price of grocery shopping is rising so we’re all looking for better deals and hoping our favourite products don’t jump in price.

But we’ve found that price rises don’t always happen in the most straightforward way.

Incredible shrinking products

Cadbury’s has reduced the number of chocolates in a tin of Roses but the price remains the same. And they’re not the only ones who are giving us less and not passing on the savings.

We trawled through the Which? back data of everyday products we’ve tested and found a number of items that aren’t all they used to be.

There’s the Sainsburys Ketchup that shrank 30g – and stayed at 95p. To be fair, after we complained to Sainsburys, they apologised and have agreed to drop the price in line with the size decrease.

But not all manufacturers have responded so well to our findings. There’s also Persil Small and Mighty washing liquid – the smallest size used to be 730ml and 20 washes – it’s now 630ml and 18 washes. There hasn’t been an equal drop in the widely available retail price.

When we questioned Persil, this was their response:

‘The Small & Mighty range changed from two pack sizes (20 and 42 washes) to four (18, 28, 54 and 85 washes) – helping us offer better value. Retail prices are up to retailers; however, our larger packs sell at an average cost per wash which is lower than this time last year.’

Fairy liquid has also shrunk – from 450ml to 433ml. They say it’s just been concentrated but this assumes you know to squeeze out less.

As these changes are incremental it’s incredibly hard to spot them yourself – unless of course you have spreadsheets of data, as we do. Which is presumably why they do it – the price has effectively gone up but you never get to know about it.

Cut your bill in half…

However, if you’re worried about the rising price of your weekly shop there is some good news. We’ve also gone back through our 2011 tests and uncovered a bumper crop of good value Which? Best Buys that you can get at budget supermarkets for a fraction of the cost of leading brands.

For instance, when we checked Aldi’s dishwasher tablets they were £3.99 for 40. Brand leading Finish costs around £10.20. Likewise, we gave Aldi’s Evoo olive oil our ‘Worth Considering’ stamp – this is a bargain £2.25 – the brand leader (Filipo Berio) is more than double that.

Overall, we found buying the leading brands of ketchup, orange juice, olive oil, laundry liquid, washing powder, washing-up liquid and dishwasher tablets, would cost £38.67. For the equivalent supermarket brand Best Buys and the Worth Considering olive oil and laundry liquid you’d pay just £18.35 – a saving of 53% on your bill.

Which? Best Buys infographic

So, will you be looking out for our Best Buys and shopping around budget supermarkets to save on your shopping? Manufacturers making products smaller certainly isn’t saving us anything, so you may have to.

Personally I’d like to know when products have shrunk and be aware of what it means to the overall cost. Is it an underhand way of reducing prices? Have you got any examples of your own shrinking products or budget buys?

Steve says:
8 April 2012

Dowe Egberts instant coffee – was in 100g jars, is now in 95g jars which are the same height but may have a slightly smaller diameter. They look the same and are on the shelves with other coffees in 100g jars. How many people would notice the weight difference? I haven’t monitored the pricing. Sometimes they are ‘on offer’.

We are suspicious that Fairy Liquid has been diluted – it seems to take more of the liquid than pteviously to do the washing up. If this is correct, that is another form of price increase.

I’m not sure that’s true Chris, but you may be interested in our washing-up liquids test: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/fairys-no-longer-the-queen-of-washing-up-liquids/

Andrex toilet tissue – less tissue in a roll.
A roll still has the same number of sheets but the width has shrunk from 110mm to 104mm. When I compared the weight of the rolls I found the more recent one was also 10g less
The company, Kimberly-Clark markets Andrex as a premium product but has reduced the quality.

Just think how many times over the years Andrex have advertised their new thicker toilet roll !!!
It would be thicker than cardboard if this were really true.
In reality, I have found they reduce the thickness and quality just before they bring out their “new improved” one.

Is this not the same as increasing the price of goods just before putting them on offer at half price. Then when the offer has ended, hopefully the confused consumer will have missed the sneaky increase of the original price.

meltedlemondrop says:
21 May 2015

Actually they have reduced the length of paper in a roll. I compared one day before the old rolls went off the market.

It’s not only packaging that’s being reduced, there’s quite a reduction in size of Greggs Vegetable Pastie, though I’m not sure whether they have kept the price the same as I hadn’t bought one for a few months. And I’m sure over the years, that many long-standing chocolate bars – such as Mars and Snickers, have not only got smaller but the chocolate has got thinner.

graham says:
25 September 2012

morrisons are doing this all the time…e.g they reduced the size of there cream cake and put the price up by 20p…now its on regular offer at 1.05….before the change it was larger and on offer at 95p or a £1.
they used to sell bottled beer at 4 for £5 now its 4 for £6 . I cud go on but i now shop elesewhere.

nigel says:
13 July 2012

Went into my local Tesco today and found Innocent Smoothies back down to £2 for 0.75 litres and not even a special price offer. I was seriously tempted but resisted since I have boycotted this product since they and Tesco launched the new reduced size 0.75 litre carton in such a deceptive fashion last year. I feel as good about refusing ever to buy Innocent Smoothie again as I would have felt had I continued to buy the 3 to 4 cartons per week I used to buy pre-deception. Was this anything to do with the change of ownership that preceded the hike. Oh those pernicious greedy purveyors of unhealthy syrup drinks.

susan foster says:
23 July 2012

This happens a lot in my co-op. You know something is about to happen when the product goes on offer then they confuse you with the size and price going up and down and before you know it the product is half the size. Also the weight has been taken off the product – is that legal?

I should be interested to learn how the hidden inflation translates into the official index of conumer prices. Do the compilers make all the necessary conversions for the products in their standard basket?

graham says:
25 September 2012

very good point john.
But then inflation is relative to what you buy.I am retired ad own my house. My personnal inflation has been at 6%+ for 5 yrs. So i look in horror at low savings rate and high inflation.
lies dammed lies and statistics.

janice tree says:
12 December 2012

Recent products I have noticed that have shrunk :- Frylight, smaller thinner bottle, Price has risen in Sainsbury’s from £1,99 to £2,30.
Alpen lights, bar has been cut down by a quarter and stayed the same price ( I actually know people who have stopped buying them).
Sainsbury’s passata (previously in bottles), now in smaller packets, same price.
Kraft fat free dressing, previously in larger bottles now in thinner bottles. When they changed the shape of the bottles they cut the price to a pound, it’s since gradually risen to original price.
Domestos bleach, same size bottle less liquid, price has risen.
The consumer loses out every time as we have to buy more as the new sizes don’t last as long. A bigger squeeze for those with tight budgets , very unfair.

Whisky says:
22 March 2013

I have noticed that products at Tesco’s e.g. mushrooms, have decreased in weight and quantity. The headline price remains the same as before. I feel this is deceptive and is cheating the consumer. Better to factor in inflation into the equation, and pay a higher price for the same amount. This is more honest.

David Finn says:
22 March 2013

Pears soap used to be darker in colour and much larger , it’s now lighter in colour and doesn’t seem the same . Now made in India . Isn’t cheap cost 55pence . That’s over 10 shillings in per decimal money .
We need more integrity in size and pricing

David Finn says:
22 March 2013

You mentioned that Filippo Berio olive oil is £4.49 I have noticed that Sainsbury nearly always have a good deal on this product

David says:
5 April 2015

Andrex have just reduced their sheet count, yet again, to 221 from 241, no price change? Thanks Andrex for helping the consumer…….NOT! I know we’ll be looking elsewhere for our next purchase, and I reckon so will many others if they find out what you’re up to.

meltedlemondrop says:
21 May 2015

Yes Whatever happended to softer, stronger and longer? Are they now going to have to change their whole advertising campaign?

It’s been reduced again, to 190 sheets per roll (Sept 2015). At this rate, it won’t be long before we’re be paying for fresh air.

Ive just been in Aldi I was most surprised at size of frozen Petits Pious Garden Peas only 700grms at 85p now that s a smaller sized pkt when 1K was an average sized pack for most Frozen Veg.

Catnap says:
22 April 2015

I found this page after noticing that Andrex looked smaller in the pack and have decreased the number of sheets by 9%. Comments on the Andrex Facebook page indicate the quality has gone down, but I’ve not yet performed my own exhaustive tests.

I’m a one-man-band manufacturer, and have always scaled my product at 253g, with a stated weight of 250g. There’s been no price increase this year, but 3 to 5% in the past. Some of my suppliers maintain their prices for several years, while others impose hikes of 40%. No doubt the marketing experts have determined that a 10% price increase or size decrease can be “got away with” for consumer products.

Stuart says:
10 August 2015

My wife likes Chai tea, and for a long time Twinings was the choice. A pack of 50 tea bags cost £2.38. She recently asked me to get a pack and so I did. Except that the pack I had bought contained 20 tea bags and was still £2.38. I thought I had made a mistake in the pack I had chosen, but on checking Twinings website, the 50 tea bag pack is no longer available. The difference between the two packs is that it is no longer Chai, but Spicy Chai, and each teabag is individually wrapped, Oh, and you get less than half the previous pack for the same price. My wife is writing to Twinings, and I expect some fluff about new and improved product. Watch this space.

Hamish Halls says:
28 November 2016

The proposed much reduced Toblerone bar has been widely publicised, but meanwhile, behind the smokescreen, the makers have made a 10% reduction in the size of their 400gm bar to 360 gm. This is only indicated in small print on one side of the package.

Hamish Halls

Colmans tartare sauce in both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose (and I therefore assume all other retail outlets) has shrunk in size from a 250gm jar to 144gm. A massive reduction for no apparent reason.

What has happened to the price, Chris? I bet it hasn’t reduced commensurately. The unit price is probably as high as that of the beef!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I think I lost track of your point somewhere there, Duncan, but your reference to football caught my eye. The term Soccer was derived from the official name for the football game for which the standard rules had been codified in England around the middle of the nineteenth century. It was known as Association Football primarily to distinguish the non-handling game from Rugby Football and other variants. “Soccer” was a play on the word “Association” and was in common parlance for generations, even well past the second world war, and was heavily used by the media, supporters, and both amateur and professional players but its use has largely died out now. Soccer is played in America but their main football game is American Football. I am not aware that other nations cannot refer to Association Football [or Soccer] as Football as we do now mostly. It is our primary national game just as Baseball is America’s.