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Toilet roll: are you being short changed?

Puppy toilet roll

Stories of shrinking supermarket essentials are rarely good news for your pocket. Well we’ve found that toilet roll has been shrinking, but the price has barely budged. So do you feel short changed?

When we asked Which? members to tell us which products had shrunk we were inundated with responses, but the one which kept cropping up was toilet roll. Several eagle-eyed contributors contacted us about Andrex toilet roll shedding sheets over the years.

Contributors such as Paul W who left this comment on Which? Convo:

‘Have Which? looked at toilet rolls? It is noticeable that they have reduced in width, not by very much, but a millimeter reduction means a “free” full roll every 100 for the manufacturer. When I built shelves in the airing cupboard to take toilet rolls a 2 roll height just fitted, now there is room to spare.’

So we decided to investigate further, delving into the archives to when we tested toilet roll in 2006 and 2008.

Caught short

What we found was that the standard Andrex toilet roll used to have 240 sheets, it now has 221 sheets – an 8% reduction. Andrex ‘Puppies On A Roll’ had 221 sheets per roll but now has 190 – 14% less.

But when we checked the price of the pack of standard Andrex four pack, we found that it stayed around the £2 mark.

Not content with this we continued our quest and investigated the length of Andrex toilet roll from 15 years ago.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of one Which? member who still had a pack of this artefact stored away and kindly sent us photographic evidence. This investigation revealed that Andrex toilet roll used to contain 280 sheets per roll – 59 more than the current pack.

Andrex said that the most recent size change was in early 2015 and that it didn’t drop the RRP:

‘We invested significantly in improving our product strength and softness. Reducing the roll by a very small number of sheets (this equates to five to six wiping occasions) has helped make this multi-million pound investment possible.’

Andrex also told us the earlier change took place in 2001, however, it said the RRP had dropped by roughly the same amount and that it had made improvements.

Shrinking products

Toilet roll isn’t the only product we’ve found to be shrinking – biscuits, juice and coffee are just some of the other products that we’ve also spotted slimming down. But as far as we’re concerned, these shrinking products are all very well and good, providing it’s not a sneaky way of increasing prices.

So do you feel short changed by shrinking toilet roll? Or do you think that it doesn’t matter? Have you noticed any other shrinking products?

Ian Greet says:
27 April 2016

I have no hard and fast facts on this, but I get the impression that medicine bottles are smaller than they used to be not so long ago.
There may be different reasons for this. It may also be a good thing?

David Richer says:
27 April 2016

I’ve been buying KP salted roasted peanuts for years and I’m used to the 300g pack – recently I can only find 270g packs printed as ‘NEW RECLOSE PACK ‘- they have a piece of sticky tape attached! They are retailing at the same price as before so I’m now getting 10% less for that price. On investigation I found that the 500g pack has also shrunk to 450g which again is a 10% shrink – sneaky tricks from KP Snacks Ltd.
It appears to me that the government’s claim that food prices have not risen is false and the RPI should be adjusted accordingly – in fact several things like annual increases in pensions and benefits depend upon this unless I’m mistaken.

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Good point David ,that is why my BT pension has zero increase for this tax year .

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David – If you go to the previous page you will see a long response to a similar point made by Roger Mitchell about the relationship of price increases to pension rates and the adjustment of the relevant indices.

adb says:
28 April 2016

This is a very timely conversation! Right since the beginning of the recession, I had noticed products getting slimmer, lighter, smaller, subjectively less dense (Fairy washing up liquid) , packaging weights / volumes in strange numbers eg 675ml, even the taste of some foods had changed

Subjectively again, Lidl and Aldi have not joined this trend, and if I am correct on this one, huge kudos to them

And excellent that Which has also published an article on this matter!

John Downer says:
1 May 2016

Cushelle Toilet Paper Rolls, until recently at Waitrose £2.00 for 4 rolls of 200 sheets = 25p per 100 sheets (also £4.00 for 4 rolls of 400 sheets – same unit price). Today I saw the same pack prices, £2.00 and £4.00, but I noticed that the unit price was no longer that neat round figure of 25p but is 27.8p per 100 sheets. Look at the pack and you see they are now rolls of 180 sheets or 360, where they were 200 or 400. By my reckoning that’s an unannounced price increase of 11%. Waitrose, to give them their due, clearly show the new unit price, and that the smaller pack contains rolls of 180 sheets, but it’s not as clear as it would be if the quantities in the pack had remained unchanged and the price simple increased. I don’t see why we should tolerate these stealthy attempts to increase prices in ways that manufacturers and retailers hope we won’t notice. In most areas of life – dealing with family and friends, or employers – this kind of attempted deception by omission would not be acceptable, so why do we have to endure it when we are shopping? The result is loss of trust and a degradation in standards of behaviour in commerce.

Peter Borrows says:
5 May 2016

A few months ago, at Tesco, Ainsley Harriott packet soups (made by Symington’s Ltd) suddently dropped from 4 packets per box to 3. Did the price drop by a quarter?

Sheila says:
5 May 2016

This is far from a new strategy. It goes on all the time, but not quite so obviously as at present. It just comes to the fore every few years for a new audience.

In the early 1970’s (yes that long ago) this was gone into as part of a course I did in advertising. We were told that if we thought that manufacturers were cheating the consumer we ought not be doing the course. I’m afraid I did finish it, but didn’t end up working in advertising.

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A story for you: Persil washing capsules now come in bigger packs, but shoppers shouldn’t have to pay any more as manufacturer Unilever says RRPs will remain the same.

The new packs for Persil bio capsules, Persil non-bio capsules and Persil colour capsules contain two or three more capsules than they did previously, bringing them up to 12, 22 and 38 washes per pack.

By our calculations, this would make the cost per wash 38p – but that’s some way off the cheapest we found in our last round of laundry detergent tests.

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/05/persil-increases-pack-sizes-but-not-prices-440631/ – Which?

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I saw this in Which? news and nearly posted it here as a “good” change to offset the continual “bad” changes. Glad to see you do it Patrick.

I don’t know whether the cheaper ones you mentioned gave an equal wash result?

On tv today one story concerned a lady who buys all (not clear if actually everything) not by what she needs, but by “yellow sticker” goods that are being sold off as they reach their sell by date. Her menus revolve around what is available. She saved an awful lot of money, but I’m not sure I’d put up with the meals that might be generated. However, food for thought. 🙁

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I have a friend who does this, mainly with foods that can be frozen if they might not be used promptly. I am offered discounted produce at least once a week, delivered to the door. As far as I’m aware, all the supermarkets discount surplus produce with a ‘use by’ date, but there is a move towards supporting the community rather than offering heaving discounts to customers.

dieseltaylor says:
6 May 2016

Recommended Retail Price not increasing ….. and who ever pays RRP? The supermarkets may well be paying more for Persil and that will end up on the shelves shortly – but still be significantly lower than RRP.

Janet says:
11 May 2016

It is not just toilet rolls, every thing you buy these days is smaller than it used to be. Chocolate boxes are a prime example, they used to weigh one kilo now they don’t.

Ian says:
13 May 2016

It’s not just the size that manufacturers are shrinking. Foster’s Gold lager has just dropped from 4.5% to 4.3% alcohol and yet the price remains the same.
The labels on the bottles and cartons remain identical, apart from 4.5% being changed to 4.3% – so it’s difficult to spot unless you study the small print!!
Even their website shows 4.5%.

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It’s not just loo rolls that have shrunk, loos have got smaller too!!!

The shorter length, the narrow seat with a small hole to park your bum, seats that don’t cover the porcelain ………. they definitely don’t seem to be designed for comfort any more.

Anyone got a suggestion for a back to wall loo that is more modern looking but in an old fashioned size?

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Quite right alfa in this designer world of UN-reality when it comes to the working biology of the human body , especially after one two many curries on a night out Practicality goes right out the window your “better half ” comes out with– oooh ! “doesnt that look nice ” but not so nice after the aforementioned event. And yes,as usual you have only to look to American for toilet arti-farts which are totally down to earth in their dimensions rather than thinking we all have designer bums .

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That’s definitely a ROFLMAO !!!! 🙄

We might actually have found one this afternoon – a Vilroy and Boch Subway that would probably do the business in comfort.

US loos are definitely made for the job and not designer bums !!!

dieseltaylor says:
27 May 2016

There is interesting research on poverty that uses loo rolls as a fundament-al part of its study. This is an introduction:

This probably has a strong resonance in the UK:
” As this report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis points out, “a household with a net income of $20,000 may pay as much as $1,200 annually for alternative service fees” while those more financially secure may only pay a few dollars (or none at all) for a chequing account. The privilege of being rich allows one to save more on mundane expenses, savings that may go unnoticed.

Read more at: phys.org/news/2016-05-poor-told-toilet-paper.html#jCp

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An update on shrinking products: we recently found that tins of Princes mackerel fillets in sauce now contain less fish than before. The tins themselves haven’t got smaller, but the amount of mackerel in each one has dropped – by up to 20%.

Princes told us that they changed the recipe in response to taste tests, and said they’ve dropped the RRP of the tins, but looking at pricing info from the last 6 months, it doesn’t look like the price reduction has been passed onto shoppers.

Has anyone spotted similar examples, where important ingredients are being cut, leaving you feeling short-changed?

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Hmm sounds a bit fishy to me 🙂

James Hewitt says:
9 October 2016

And now – yet again – Andrex have reduced the roll size to 200 sheets. They claim the sheet is thicker but this appears to be due to them putting some annoying pattern on the paper rather than actually increasing the paper thickness. Apparently we are all idiots and just suck manufacturing cost reduction up. Unfortunately I can’t find a decent alternative to Andrex – believe it or not!

Janet Oakley says:
30 November 2016

Gus helps toilet rolls now 2ply not 3ply. Rubbish.

Geoff Emson says:
25 February 2017

I recently bought a couple of rolls of kitchen towels from a supermarket, either Asda or Tesco (I can’t remember which one now) thinking that the price seemed reasonable. When I came to use them they were pathetic- not much bigger than a very small handkerchief and totally unsuited for the job of wiping up spills. I shall check what I am buying more carefully in future.

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Yup, you have just witnessed shrinkation in action. It won’t be long before we are presented with “new, bigger, better” that will be exactly the same as we were used to previously, only at a higher price. Andrex have been at that for years, which is why I stopped buying them.