/ 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 Kelly says:
19 September 2011

Innocent Smoothies down from 1Ltr to 750ml. That is what I call a big drop!

Mike Hammill says:
23 September 2011

Absolutely – when the reduced size packs appeared the shelf prices still had the old size in Llandudno Tesco. Rip off.
Small bottle of wines – 25cls down to 18cls and the same price. In the interests of cutting alcohol consumption these small volumes should be promoted by a low price. Tesco just want the money not social responsibility. I am reminded of Dudley Moore’s observation that Tesco can be declined just like a Latin verb!

Alidee says:
23 September 2011

I think Innocent Smoothies are now 900ml, so not quite such a big drop – it’s Copella apple juice that went down to 750ml. I’m also not keen on the fact Innocent Smoothies are now in plastic bottles. I don’t know if these are more environmentally friendly than theprevious tetra paks or not but they don’t ‘feel’ more so to me.

It’s profiteering. If you can’t raise the price, drop the quantity. They’ve been doing it for years

I am not sure there is a story here, since manufacturers have been playing with weights and volumes of their products for many years. Shelf labels are there to help customers compare the relative cost of products and sizes on offer.

Happymover says:
23 September 2011

Shelf labels are a laugh at our local Co-op. Fairy Dishwasher tablets are on sale in two different sized packs – 20 & 28 tabs. On the 28 tab shelf label they are measured in price per item (10 point something p) and the other in price per kilogram! Try working that out without a calculator.

Tesco does this too, but most of the time the shelf labels are useful.

Jacqueline Pye says:
19 September 2011

Aldi’s Bubblechoc is a huge hit with us. Cheaper than Aero and could be the same chocolate or very similar.

And also Felix multipack catfood has gone from 48 sachets to 44 sachets, without a drop in price, and Pampers sensitive babywipes have gone from 63 in a pack to 58 in a pack. Thanks for pointing it out!

Those are both really good examples as they both have numbers rather than amount. I think consumers would notice the numbers of products going down more than amounts as we’re not so aware how many washes Fairy liquid lasts for, for example. But four sachets less of act food is four fewer feeds for your cat!

have you seen the size of a frys turkish delight,their tiny compared to yesteryears

Packets of Seabrook crisps decreased in weight from 31.8 to 30g, or around 6%. Perhaps this is to help us eat less fat and salt.

Hmm, walkers did it years ago with their standard packs. Were held to account and started making normal packets again with the normal weight.

I will not accept health fascism as an excuse for profiteering and never will.

Copella Apple Juice – used to be widely available in 1 litre size. Now shrunken to a mere 750ml! I noticed immediately as I often try to find ways to re-use the old huge plastic bottles – they make great storage containers!

Maybe manufacturers should mark their products New smaller pack or New higher price. After all, they always remember to tell us about larger sizes and lower prices. 🙂

graham andrews says:
22 September 2011

muller yogurts have done the smaller pack route i’d say the fruit has gone down 50% and the yogurt 30%. i wrote to them and complained and got £6 of vouchers. i guess they thought that would shut me up!!its tanter mount to fraud..its certainly missleading.
i do wonder if printer ink manufacturers are doing the same but then how would we know apart from the fact i get less printing per pound these days.

Steven Dowse says:
23 September 2011

I had read this a while back on the BBC. It is to do with inflation and they found that people preferred (or perhaps didn’t notice) smaller quantities for the same price than the price rising.

How about Unilever who reduced the size of Pond’s cold cream from 75ml to 50ml – the price didn’t drop by a third.

Mars bars have been doing it for at least twenty years (and then from time to time announcing “new jumbo size, 33% extra free”, or some such). I noticed El Paso tortillas decreased their diameter at the same time as the supermarkets started their ‘budget’ ranges.

Andrew Russell says:
23 September 2011

Incredible shrinking products. Here’s something that seems to have increased in size – but it’s not good news. The ‘hole’ in the centre of toilet rolls is much larger than it was. On the continent this doesn’t seem to have happened – yet.

Kitchen towels are going the same way as toilet rolls did some time ago: the cardboard tube is a greater diameter so there are fewer sheets on the roll although the outer package size remains the same – so you’re less likely to notice.

Hmmm. I had better look out my vernier calipers and check the size of the hole in Polo Mints. 🙂

Bigger is not always better.

Streamline reduced sugar marmalade reduces from 454g to 400g.

Does the reduction in size increase thecost of living index for inflation purposes?

King of Shaves Alphagel shaving gel down from 175ml to 150ml – same size container

Derek Danielsen says:
23 September 2011

I agree with Mikes Hammill statement on reduced sizing of small bottles of wine. This down sizing on small bottles of wine is not confined to Tesco but is common practice at all the other big four supermarkets. The two supermarkets that I know have not reduced the size of their small wine bottles are Lidl and Aldi ,good for them.

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.

Cut price promotions have to be paid for in some other way so supermarkets add on to things you may not notice or squeeze suppliers so hard they then have to resort to “innovative ways” to supply at the right price to suit the supermarket ie smaller sizes or lower quality.

The ones who offer goods at the lowest prices are the worst as someone or something is being exploited somewhere along the line.

Would prefer to pay a fair honest price without all the offers than working out the prices and sizes of the offers and whether the smaller size is actually cheaper than the large size, and whether something else in your basket has shot up in price that you don’t notice as you are distracted working out the offers etc…….

Why must supermarkets make our shopping trips such a toil?

Why is milk always on offer? Because they can con us over it. We are only going to buy as much as we need so we don’t save much and so that doesn’t cost the supermarket anything as and they pay the producer a heck of a lot less than we pay the supermarket for our milk, so the supermarkets make a lot of money out of milk at everybody elses expense.

One thing is sure, if the price isn’t right it will be the consumer or the producer who will be the looser, not the rip off supermarkets!