/ 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?

graham west mids says:
5 October 2011

if we are all so annoyed then start writing to head offices of theses companies and super markets thats the only way. whinging on here wont do it although it will help us all understand how wide spread it is. Get out there and complain to the source and stop buying the product.. that will really hurt them.

Simon says:
10 October 2011

Ambrosia Rice pudding/custard was 425g now 400g same price

Patricia Hall says:
20 October 2011

Having received the first copy of “Which” this week, I was interested to note your article son the
shrinking pack/value. It seems that now there is less money around, there is a great deal of interest in this subject. I (and now my husband) have for the past 3 years, stopped purchasing
items such as kitkats, penguin biscuits (particularly) wagon wheels et al. I could never eat a whole Mars bar, it was too much for me, not any more, except that my husband will no longer allow me to buy them as they are all just about half the size they were and when on offer are still too dear.

I purchased boxes of Shredded Wheat holding 32 biscuits in April/May, now these packets are
holding only 30 but the price remained the same at £2.75.

There is hardly anything on the market which has not shrunk in size but still costs either the same or more. It appears to me that when purchasing items when they are 3 for 2 or 2 for 1 is purchasing them nearer the true price. Harold Wilson was respnsible for getting rid of price maintenance when on it being introduced meant shops no longer had to sell items at the same price. Why is it that although Tesco says there is no CARTEL amongst the main supermarkets, two litres (or pints) of milk in all these stores are 89p – a rise of 3p in the past few weeks. If “every little helps” surely
the supermarkets can apprecisate what an increase of 3p means to most families, particularly when they have a family with chiidren. I find it difficult to believe how boxes of washing powder have
shrunk, how many different sizes and how muich they have increased in price. I only purchase these items when they ar on offer (obviously I have a problem in storing them but I manage).

Whatever excuses the Supermarkets come up with, with regard to price increases, the biggest problem is without doubt in this country is GREED.

Although Politicians and the like talk about fairness they do no appear to have any idea what
this is.

I do not beleive writing to the supermarkets complaining would make any difference but it customers
were a little more discerning, and learnt to do without items when they have to pay the full marked
up price – maybe this would make the supermarkets and the manufacturers think hard. The only way to make a difference to these suppliers is to hit their pockets.

“I do not believe writing to the supermarkets complaining would make any difference but it customers
were a little more discerning, and learnt to do without items when they have to pay the full marked
up price – maybe this would make the supermarkets and the manufacturers think hard. The only way to make a difference to these suppliers is to hit their pockets.”

I absolutely agree and myself have long put your suggestion into practice but I don’t think supermarkets and manufacturers will take much notice until a critical mass is reached
in terms of sales etc

I have seen shoppers piling up on so-called British chicken legs at Sainsburys when a German discounter virtually next door sells identical stuff consistently at precisely 43.60% cheaper and BTW they taste every bit as good.

Was of course referring to uncooked fresh British chicken legs re my previous…. both Sainsburys and Tesco also sell a cheaper version of fresh chicken, where do they come from?

A Chinese supermarket sells frozen whole chickens, breasts, drumsticks etc that emanate from either Brazil or Thailand.They are much cheaper and it is made clear they are EU-approved.

Whether you like it or not, it seems much of the fresh chickens sold in British supermarkets are approved or slaughtered for halal but not indicated as such, but there is such clear labelling in the oriental supermarket that I frequent.

Re: A Chinese supermarket sells frozen whole chickens, breasts, drumsticks etc that emanate from either Brazil or Thailand.They are much cheaper and it is made clear they are EU-approved.

If you are concerned about animal welfare you need to know where your food comes from. Never forget that cheap food comes at a price and will compromise quality, production standards, and animal welfare standards.

As for “EU approved” this is not as reassuring as it sounds. See below:

“For the past twelve years pig farmers in the UK have operated to welfare standards that the vast majority of other European countries have failed to match. According to BPEX data, even today, two-thirds of all pork and pig meat imports to the UK from the EU have been produced to standards that would be illegal in this country.”

UK egg producers have spent around £400m to improve conditions for laying hens. That money will be wasted and UK producers will be left at a competitive disadvantage if cheaper, illegal and non-compliant shell eggs and egg products can be imported to the UK from other European countries.”

Tom Witney says:
25 October 2011

One that I’ve noticed is that Innocent now sell their smoothies in 750 ml cartons rather than 1 litre – it only twigged when I put an old carton and a new one side by side. I haven’t looked at the price, but as I didn’t notice a significant saving I suspect it will be the same story!

I remember a time I bought Innocent orange juice in 900 ml cartons.

Mrs Sensible says:
21 November 2011

My bugbear is Felix cat food pouches – the giant size box used to have 48 pouches in, now it only has 44! No cheaper.

Changes in product sizes are now so common that no amount of ranting is likely to achieve anything.

I suggest that it would be better to focus on pushing retailers to provide shelf labels that present information in a consistent format, so that it is easier for customers to compare prices. Perhaps the Office of Fair Trading could look into this.

Sophie says:
29 November 2011

This shrinking has been going on for a while. I have noticed that a lot of items have reduced in size and weight. Now some honey jars are 250g from 454g some years ago!
I have also noticed that PG tea bags have reduced in size.
I’d rather the prices go up and the size, weight and volume stay the same. At least this way it is more open and honest.

Asda’s ‘Chosen By You’ own brand pizzas have recently shrunk but the price remains fixed. They are happy to include a ‘New Improved Recipe’ label on their product, perhaps a ‘New Smaller Size’ would be more honest. They certainly wont be ‘Chosen by me’!

Nick says:
21 January 2012

1 litre smoothie at £2 (0.2 pence per 1ml)
Now 0.75lt for £2 (0.27 pence per 1ml)
7p / 20p = 0.35 = 35%
That’s a 35% price increase!!!!
Reducing sizes for the same sell price is very clever because the effect on revenue is so much bigger than we would ever accept by a simple price raising strategy for same amount of product.
Don’t believe any of the lies about ‘keeping up with inflation’, or ‘extra transport fuel costs’, packaging etc. The price increase would be c. 5% a year in that case.
Best lie was this one:
A 5cm reduction in diameter pretty much halves the product amount, sold at the same price due to “meet the Light Choices criteria” (they also admit increased costs). LOL!
Just look at Tesco’s annual report if in doubt as to profits even with their recent ‘disappointments’. I have been studying Tesco’s as part of an MBA degree course for 2 years now, and I like them less and less and increasingly feel happier supporting higher prices local stores.
Also consider that smaller product volumes have higher quantities of packaging per gram of food leading to more effort to recycle and bigger environmental downsides.

I’ve long since stopped buying manufactured food. For example, pies and pasties that advertise generous fillings on the packets always turn out to be a bit of gravy and about as much meat that you’d find on a butcher’s pencil. Hectic though modern lifestyle may be, myself and many of my friends still put a little time and patience aside throughout the week to make good old family cook book recipes; whereby you get the wholesome filling you want, save a fortune and there’s plenty left to freeze. If only people today could learn such simple economics of hard times of yesterday, instead of being led by lazy habit, we’d show these rip-off, greedy food manufacturers where to shove it.. As it stands, you deserve all you get.

Hello everyone, we’ve taken many of your shrunken products examples and looked at whether their prices have stayed the same – most had. You can read more about it in our latest Conversation, and make sure you come and comment! https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/shrinking-products-supermarket-pack-sizes-prices-stay-same/ Thanks

Simonc says:
19 March 2012

Another example I’ve come across recently are Chunky Kitkats where the pack size has reduced from 5 to 4 – and I’ve noticed that Sainsbury’s are now offering these at a ‘reduced’ price of £1, down from £1.55. I wonder how long the 4 pack has been that price, although the old 5 pack was.

Angela says:
23 March 2012

Many many months ago I noticed that the contents of a carton of Shredded Wheat had shrunk – from 18 “biscuits” to 16, while the price, as others have observed with regard to various other products, had stayed the same. In fact I think this was one of the first products to “lead the way” in this regard. What’s more, the way the “biscuits” were packed had been changed, so as to keep the carton more or less the same size, and try to conceal the deception. And, yes, I think it is a deception, dishonest marketing. I wish some pressure could be put on these companies to be honest about the changes, not so underhand!

D S Hill says:
24 March 2012

Marks & Spencer have joined the Shrinking Products with their jars of Marmalade now at 340gms instead of 454gms. M&S have been selling 1lb jars of jams and marmalade since Adam was a lad. What a disgrace they are to reduce themselves to this practice.

Mike says:
24 March 2012

Two of the worst offenders are the manufacturers of MARS bars and WAGON WHEEL biscuits. Look at their products 50 years ago and what they are today. You would recognise neither.

Mike says:
24 March 2012

Tesco sold 85gramme Millicano coffee refills at £2 just three weeks ago. Overnight the price was ramped to £3.99. Waken up folks and start asking questions about this blatant profiteering. So long as you don’t complain prices will continue to rise.

Liz says:
1 April 2012

Heinz Farmers Market Soup – we originally bought this soup because we liked the size of the larger than usual tin, giving 2 good sized portions of soup. It has now been reduced to 400g – the same as most other tins, but still much the same price as before.