/ Food & Drink, Money, Shopping

Products are getting smaller while shopping bills get bigger

Mini cupcake

We have discovered yet more household products that have shrunk, while the price has stayed the same or even increased. Are any of your favourite products shrinking?

In our investigation into shrinking products, we found a pack of Birds Eye beef burgers with four fewer burgers in it than before – 12 down from 16. We also discovered Pledge furniture polish had shrunk by almost a fifth. And we found you get fewer Dettol anti bacterial wipes and even fewer crisps than you used to.

For most of the products we investigated, the price stayed the same after the shrink. The biggest decrease in product size we found was 25%, while the smallest was Walkers cheese and onion crisps that decreased by 6%. Check out our gallery at the bottom of this post for some of the shrinking products we found.

How do you feel about shrinking products?

It’s certainly a topic that gets people hot under the collar. Last time I wrote about shrinking products on Which? Conversation, over 100 people joined the debate and some very strong views were expressed. Alan Pearcey felt that he was being tricked:

‘Manufacturers and retailers are equally complicit in this blatant, underhanded, conspiracy to confuse and cheat those who represent their very survival – their customers – with this latest ‘smoke and mirrors’ practice.’

M. would rather see prices go up:

‘I would prefer them to raise prices so we could see the knife coming, rather than put up with this devious practise.’

Frugal Ways wondered if shrinking products avoided being picked up by price index measures:

‘It’s clear to me that smaller pack sizes for the same price is an actual price rise, yet this sharp practice does not impact on inflation, RPI, CPI figures, etc. These figures are used nationally by governments, councils, et al, to calculate benefits, wages, etc.’

So why are products shrinking?

We looked at branded products (eg not supermarket own-brand), using independent shopping website mysupermarket.co.uk. We asked the makers of these products why they had shrunk them, and were generally told that, in the face of rising costs they choose to shrink products rather than increase prices.

Many of the manufacturers we spoke to said supermarkets ultimately set prices. We asked whether they reduced the wholesale price or set a lower recommended retail price when the product shrank. Most manufacturers either said they didn’t do this or wouldn’t comment. So it’s perhaps not surprising the prices in supermarkets didn’t drop.

Would you prefer a price increase or a smaller product? How important is it that manufacturers and retailers make it clear to shoppers when a product has reduced in size?

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Comments
Ron Little says:
24 April 2016

Along with food items Pears Soap is in decline. Some years ago the product was changed and the size reduced to 125 g tablets – these we have bought for 60p each for some time. They have now reduced the size to 100g and are selling a double pack for £1.20 – if that isn’t a rip-off I don’t know what is

David Ellis says:
16 October 2016

Just spotted this one yesterday – Asda value tomato ketchup, sold previously for 36p for 550g and is now 38p for just 500g…that’s the equivalent of a 16% price increase completely under the radar!

Mark G. says:
2 November 2016

My tip to spot misleading prices:

Keep a mental note of the benchmark price for the products you buy regularly:

For example, for well over a year, I have always been able to buy a single can of genuine Pepsi diet for 29p in Lidl. Therefore 10 will only cost me £2.90.

When I see a multipack on offer, say 8 for xxx or 15 for yyyy elsewhere, I calculate whether that works out cheaper than Lidl.

Another broad benchmark I use is for solid milk chocolate, i.e. not filled or added “assorted bits of stuff”!
Using Cadbury as an example, I use £1 per 100g as a maximum normal figure, so if a pure chocolate product, such as a Wispa, Flake, buttons, etc works out as substantially more or less than £1 per 100g, I know whether it is a bargain. The rule readily applies to multi-packs.

That’s why unit prices were introduced. If the price is shown per 100g then it does not matter what pack size is on offer. By setting £1 per 100g you are providing yourself with a reference point that gives you a good idea of the relative price of different brands and pack sizes.

Andra says:
4 January 2017

Noticed a tin of Carnation condensed milk 3/4 tin for price of full sized tin…are production prices rising so much or am excuse to cash in?
Why is there no protection in law for consumers or notification of change required?

Alison Muir says:
12 February 2017

Tesco luxury soft white toilet rolls. Still 220 sheets a roll, no change to sheet dimensions, average total area and roll length as detailed on the packaging. But the inner cardboard tube diameter is now 45 mm whereas it used to be 35 mm, and the rolls weigh about 128 g down from about 143 g. Must be using thinner paper then.

Has anyone else noticed OXO cubes are no longer cubes? tThere are pieces cut out on all sides.

I hope they don’t describe them as OXO cubes because they are no longer cube-shaped (cubular?).

I’ve learned something today, thanks to Which? Conversation. If that’s supposed to be an X, will be have round ones with a hole. Another company made a mint with that idea.

Good spot! I quite like the design of those not-so-cubes, but I guess they work out to be smaller.

It’s not just Oxo cubes that are losing their corners. We have one or two cooking utensils in the Oxo brand. When taking the plastic turning tool – presumably designed for use on a hot plate or in a frying pan – out of the dishwasher yesterday I noticed that the corners and the leading edge had melted away. Not fit for purpose but we cannot recall where it was bought or when. We consoled ourselves with the thought that we had probably eaten little bits of plastic with our dinner. So much for smart, modern badly-branded kit! Rattling around in the drawer I found a much older, less design-conscious but more solid turner that appeared to be still intact after many years of use. The Oxo gadget will now be used for stirring fence paint I expect. A good example of a shrinking product.

You can get way from the shrinking product syndrome by wearing reading glasses. I normally wear contact lenses, with spectacles in reserve. When I put the specs on, things immediately look slightly smaller. So it is all an illusion – like life 🙂 Cars, however, seem to be ever-expanding products; each new model seems larger than the last. As our roads and parking spaces don’t follow suit, is this a good thing?

Lorraine Ellis says:
30 January 2019

I can’t remember what I paid last time I bought Comfort pure fabric conditioner, but it was 1.5L bottle or 42 washes. Today in Tesco a bottle is 1.26L or 36 washes. Someone presumably has paid to have the smaller bottle redesigned. I’ll need to buy more often and use more plastic bottles. What a waste and how misleading.

We buy the bulk food and commodity household products on-line for delivery and the order confirmations sit in my e-mail system indefinitely. It is occasionally useful to look back and see how products and their prices have changed over time. Previous orders are also stored on the retailer’s system.

Today, the same fabric conditioner at Sainsbury’s is shown as 1.26 litres [42 washes] so there is a curious inconsistency there. The price is £2.00 a bottle [£1.59 per litre]. There are 26 Comfort products available in all manner of colours and flavours, shapes and sizes and prices. This is one of the effects of consumerism.

We buy Sainsbury’s own-label regular fabric conditioner at £1.80 for 1.26 litres [42 washes]; unit price £1.43 per litre. We cannot detect any difference in performance or conditioning from using the cheaper product.

DerekP says:
30 January 2019

As an honorary member of the “Iceland Classes” I quite often shop either there or at Farmfoods.

I notice they often sell useful larger sizes, for example, just now Iceland have an 85 wash comfort for £4.00 (or £1.33/litre):

iceland.co.uk/fabric-conditioners?sort=price-desc&q=#

Folk watching their pennies may also appreciate Farmfood’s downloadable money off vouchers:

farmfoods.co.uk/pdfs/farmfoods_voucher.pdf