/ 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?

Comments

Dr. Stuarts healthy teas have quietly reduced the number of tea-bags per pack from 20 to 15, plus
a price increase.

Colin Tyler says:
26 September 2011

I have noticed that all Sainbury’s wine boxes are now 2.25 litres instead of 3 litres. I’m not sure about the pricing difference but why has this happened?. Will prices now rise for a substantially smaller volume?

Cath Cowper says:
26 September 2011

Sensodyne toothpast tubes are getting smaller & smaller – evn the writing on them has shrunk

Carole says:
26 September 2011

Noticed Britvic J2O has now shrunk from 275ml to 250ml. no change in price obviously.
Then again, somethings are getting bigger, like the inside of toilet & kitchen rolls! That’s together with the actual width getting narrower each time I buy them..do they think we wouldn’t notice?? And they still have the cheek to keep the price the same.

Maureen Liu says:
27 September 2011

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference honey range – some varieties used to come in 430 ml jars and they silently substituted with 340 ml jars. Don’t think the prices dropped, and I only noticed this coz I save the jars for storage.

Also both Tesco and Sainsbury’s steadily reduce the size of their meat packages, from 550 g to 500 g, or from 500 g to 454 g, or even 400 g.

Its sad but it’s true, and it affects everything we buy, even down to the length of the twist ties supplied with some freezer and food bags that now barely work without flying apart. Self tying ones are probably a better option although that may include more plastic so may actually be less cost effective.

Bryan The Lion says:
27 September 2011

Mars, Snickers, twix chocolate bars all 58g down from 63.5 (then dropped to 61.5) and any ‘limited edition’ (caramel snickers etc) always ways in at 52g; maybe the only thing limited is the weight! Dairy Milk went up from 200g to 250g with the slogan ‘more to share’ then quietly dropped it down 230 (‘less to share’ would have made a nice slogan). I have received a letter from Mars telling me that the weight reductions were due to consumer demand (!) they did not address my point about the failure to drop the prices. Others I have noticed:

Yoghurt pots down from 500g to 450g
Innocent apple juice now sold in a 900g carafe instead of 1litre carton
SunPat peanut butter is a virtual ‘to scale’ model of what was sold in the past (and the jar is now plastic).

But worst of all, my local pub is now selling beer in 1/3 pints (the legal minimum), but add the thirds together and…….I don’t think I need to go on!

Kath G says:
28 September 2011

Muller Light yoghurts were 200g not too long ago, they reduced to 190g for a while, and are now 175g, price has gone up from 54p to 61p!

For a long, long time Asda were selling two x 250gm of their own brand cheddar cheeses for £3.00.
At the beginning of September 2011 I noticed this offer had been discontinued but just a couple of weeks later it re-appeared. However, the pack size is now 200gm so it’s a 20% price hike.

My one little indulgence that I used to be able to afford, raw cashew-nuts, roasted and eaten as a snack
on its own, has its weight reduced from 1000g to 700g with, wait for it, a substantial increase in
price.

Purchased from my ethnic retail outlet, how could they JUSTIFY a VAST increase in price at one fell
swoop.

Internet research shows NO reduction in production at source OR their being a disease blight
whatsoever.

Erratum: should of course be ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ re previous posting.

Over a few years Sainsbury’s Basic range of tissues have been shrinking. The box is 22.5 cm long, and the tissues were 21.5 cm or 22. I noticed them shrinking when they started to slide about in the box. Last week I bought some and put a wadge of new ones on top of some old ones: the old ones measure 20.3 cm and the new ones are 19 cm, so overall the tissues have reduced by 3 cm, a great saving over thousands of boxes. They are good value, but why not reduced the box as well, or keep the size and just put up the price by a few pence. This sneaky reduction of 0.5 cm every six months or so is irritating.

I love tuna and always buy 4-packs in water. They show a drained weight and I’ve taken to checking this when I empty the tins. I used to find good or plus weight, but during the last two or three years it has always been underweight. A few grams here and there problably add up to a lot for a manufacturer and of course who weighs drained tuna?

I have noticed a similar situation to the “tuna story”. I have approached Iceland about their 4 pint flagons of milk as they very rarely come up to the 4 pint mark. I was told that it averaged out at 4 pints per flagon. If that’s the case, somebody’s getting more than their share, and it’s not me.

carol says:
1 October 2011

Not only are Persil bio and non- bio tablets being sold as 40 tabs instead of 48 tabs, but each tablet weight has reduced from 75g to 62g.
I was only prompted to weigh them as I opened a new box of 40 and was visibally shocked at the shrinkage in sizes of tabs.

It seems someone has counted the number of beans in a typical can of beans and they have gone down too…ah, life is too short to check on that as well but I’d noticed the sauce therein has gone discernibly thinner or watery… and of course the price of a can has gone significantly up.

Eat less of that, less global warming… so I was told, you know what I mean.

Marge 81 says:
3 October 2011

I have just bought new bottle of Surcare Laundry Detergent and found that the different shaped bottle contains 630 ml instead of the 700ml of my existing bottle.

Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs. Were 200g. Now ‘NEW LOOK Same Great Product’ – 180g

This has highlighted the devious and questionable methods retailers use while trying to convince consumers they are actually keeping prices down to help them.

In a very difficult economic climate, for retailers to retain their own profit levels will be at the expense of either the producer or the consumer.

Perhaps if consumers now started reporting on, and buying, the things that have stayed the same, albeit any justifiable price increase, the manufacturers and retailers who do employ these tactics might get the message that consumers are not all as stupid or as easily led as they want them to be.

Consumers should be offered a choice of what they buy. They must be informed of any changes to the quality of ingredients of manufactured items, and of the country of origin of food supplied, including all meat, poultry and dairy produce. Also the packaging ought to match the contents.

Grace Kenny says:
5 October 2011

I have noticed a number of things
Warburtons small toasite loaf – up in price and reduced in quantity
Tins of Tuna – reduced in quantity
Bisto Granuels – When you open the tubs – half empty
They are all doing it – higher prices and reducing the quantity
Things are not going up by 1p or 2p they are going up 50p

Price of frozen chicken breasts went up at a stroke at my local large oriental supermarket by 26% earlier this summer…. there was discontent felt by self and many other shoppers over this deemed huge price rise and there was a boycott of this particular product…. guess what, price reverted to original when I last checked very recently.

My favourite brand of the versatile coconut milk has virtually doubled in price over like period… I shall
mitigate the effects of this unconscionable price rise by seeking an alternative brand and indeed cherry-picking elsewhere…. and possibly even making my own.

We as consumers must not allow retailers and manufacturers to get away with unjustified price rises,
many of whom do indeed take us consumers for fools and think we would not notice price rise by way of a reduction in quantity/quality(by dilution, for example) and/or charging a higher price for same amount and they have been doing this for years and years as if we do not already know.