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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.


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


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.