/ Shopping

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?


I complained to Sainsbury last week regarding the samosas from their deli counter. Not only have they shrunk, but the lamb samosas had more potato than meat in them.

No reply from them yet.

Thank you Sainsbury’s for your very generous £5 gift card.

But what I would really like to hear, is that you will restore your samosas to their previous deliciousness and size and the lamb samosas will contain more meat than potato in the future.

I will also add that I would prefer Sainsbury’s put the price up and kept the quality rather than reduce the quality and keep the same price.

Paying a little more for something you enjoy or keeping the price the same for an inferior product. I know which option I prefer.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

My comment on Andrex and Kleenex loo rolls 11 months and 27 days ago…

We gave up with Andrex and Kleenex years ago.
There was this cycle of them being on offer with reduced quality/thickness, and advert on TV promoting their new thicker/better rolls, then back to their usual thickness again. If you think of the number of times over the years that Andrex have promoted new thicker / best ever, etc, their loo paper would be the thickness of cardboard by now !!!
We have been using Charmin for a while now as the thickness seems consistent and stock up on it when it is on special offer.

Followed by another comment by me 11 months and 9 days ago…
After praising Charmin, I can now report they have shrunk the size of their sheets by 2-3mm in both directions.
No doubt the price will stay the same.

Shame I didn’t give their measurements to keep tabs on them.

I noticed charming was the only one that hadn’t reduced the thickness of the sheets….. until recently! I have kept a loo roll from each pack of andrex and velvet to compare the difference in quality and thickness….. I think it’s time I write a complaint letter with my findings….. 😊

I like the sound of your investigative work Elle – send us a picture if you can 🙂

andrex toilet paper use to have 6 colours not now and they were softer

Not being one of those who count the number of ‘wiping occasions’ that Mr Andrex refers to, or the number of sheets used per occasion, I am in no position to comment on the accuracy of his observations. All I know is that I am changing the roll with increasing frequency and picking up more rolls on each visit to the supermarket. And no, Norovirus hasn’t struck the Ward household.

Alice, you say “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”. I happen to think continuous alteration of the size/volume/quantity of groceries and household products is not “all very well and good”. I would prefer to see the quantities remain the same [or even increase to round numbers or sensible proportions] and accept commensurate price adjustment for our regular shopping. If I want odd sizes/weights/volumes then I can go to a pound shop.

I can understand why Tropicana have reduced the volume but not the price in their “Exotic Creations” squeezed fruit juices range from 1L to 85cl as they have to gather up a load of left-overs and press them together to make a less popular drink [e.g. pineapple juice] and this exercise must be extremely costly. They have also had to spend money carefully making the carton look just the same as the 1L products even though it has less content. Personally I would prefer to have one litre in the carton which will give a consistent number of servings alongside other fruit juices. Their ‘recommended serving’ quantity [“part of your five a day . . . “] does not even multiply evenly into the revised quantity in the carton!

It never used to be necessary to check the quantities in rival products – they were generally consistent. Now there are subtle variations which means you have to check the unit prices on the shelf label. This is helped in Tesco’s toilet roll department because they are given as “Xp per Sht” (sic) which is always good to know.

I’m not clear about Tesco’s claim, John. A recent Royal Navy documentary on submarines,I think, revealed a major blunder in running very low on toilet paper. The commander did have to point out that you could use both sides and fold it in half to conserve stocks until reaching port.

My grandparents’ used to cut up newspaper and thread it onto string, hung on the inside of the (outside) toilet door. It might well be cheaper to return to this, given the size of the saturday supplements.

I would prefer all sizes / quantities / weights of pre-packaged goods to stay the same, and if costs do increase then for the prices to be raised. I then know better where we are. Otherwise I am being deceived, quite deliberately.

I liked the submarine story, Malcolm; it’s not as though you can go topside and hang over the rail on a sub is it? I think if I had been in the Royal Navy I would have always had my own reserve stock in case of government cutbacks.

My great aunt in Birmingham followed your grandparents’ method. It was so cold in the outside toilet that there was never time to do the crossword. Around Christmas time the soft tissue wrappers from oranges were included in the sheaves of paper as a special treat.

I picked up a Daily Telegraph last Saturday because I wanted the magazine; I ended up throwing two thirds of the paper in the bin in the supermarket to save weight and bulk [well, it wasn’t really a bin – it was the display stand for the Independent newspaper which no one had noticed has gone out of print].

Hmm…. “you could use both sides and fold it in half to conserve stocks until reaching port. “. Very metaphorical, Malcolm 🙂

I think people from this part of the world including me are obsessed with toilet paper. For instance in spain and italy you are lucky to find more then 2 types of toilet paper.
I don’t feel short changed i just buy them in lidl or aldi

I have noticed over the period of 4 yrs that the thickness of Andrex and velvet toilet rolls has changed the quality now is very poor I have actually kept rolls over the years to compare the difference it is a disgrace especially when the price has not been reduced but gone up instead…..

I’m all in favour! Supermarkets have to make a profit [and their overall margins are not high]. Exploiting the ignorance of those who do not check prices and quantities enables them to offer better value to those who do. It’s effectively a “tax on ignorance”.

I keep a register in my head of the price per unit quantity that I am happy to pay for each product. If the price is at that level, I buy. If above, I look elsewhere. If well below, I buy for stock. Where the ‘product’ is a constituent – for example, fruit content in jams & marmalades – I factor that in as well. That way, I don’t get ripped off.

PS: How many people realise that the ‘Puppies on a Roll’ embossing is not just to make bog-paper more attractive to young kids. Because the embossing makes the successive layers in the roll lay down less tightly that unembossed, you get a plump-looking roll, with fewer sheets . . . .

At the end of the day all these products being reduced in size or numbers is all part of rip off Britain, is there no business can be 100% honest with customers.

It appears everything is shrinking except people’s waistlines! If products are shrinking and prices remain the same does that mean consumers are unwittingly buying the same product more often over time which would account for the increase in obesity statistics?

The number of loo rolls used would depend upon the amount of dietary fibre in ones diet, the number of people per household and the male/female ratio of each household, where again consumers are unwittingly buying more over time to compensate the quantative and qualitative shortfall without any corresponding price reduction..

Maybe now is an appropriate time for Which? to launch a super complaint to The Governments Regulations’ Code and the National Measurement and Regulators Office (NMRO).

No one talking of the price of petrol or diesel speaks of the price of a tankful. Everyone speaks of the unit price, the price/litre.

Until the vast majority of foods are sold with the headline price being the unit price and the actual cost of the item and any offer information being less prominent, the food producers and the shops are always going to be able to trick us.

Shrinking packs can be obvious but what is not obvious is the shrinking of strength. At one time a drop of Fairy Liquid in a sink of hot water would create plenty of washing up water. However now several squeezes have to be made and it’s not nearly as effective. I have assumed that the manufacturer have ‘watered’ down the formula thus providing the same volume but less value.

Ahmed says:
20 April 2016

Very nasty practice, they should say “new reduced amount but we are not putting up the price” on the new package. Stop buying those products, they will soon get the message, won’t they?

I to noticed a quality problem with Andrex recently. Being disabled with one hand only I found the sheets difficult to tear along the perferations and not being as strong wipe wise. I contacted Andrex via their website and received £8.00 in Andrex vouchers almost by return of post.
Hence it pays to complain and judging by the quick response I have not been the only one.
The vouchers were used on their Kleenex tissues. We now find Sainsburys own brand to our satisfaction.

I have noticed the SMA formula milk has shrunk from 900g to 800g but the price has not been reduced. Baby shopping is expensive enough as it is without companies trying to rip of consumers more and more. Time to switch brands!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

One hand for eating and the other for that little job
The people I worked alongside once upon a year also didnt have a toilet bowl and seat as we do but use a hole at floor level with in modern times usually flushes
Apparently it is supposed to be a better/healthier method of emptying one’s waste dept
Maybe no one wants to know the details but it is always good to know about the world. . .and it’s people’s
I got used to it when I had to but I like toilet roll and baby wipes, , the whole deal

Steve says:
20 April 2016

So does this mean Wagon Wheels really were as big as I remember them 40 years ago?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

jenny says:
20 April 2016

Waitrose Cotton Wool Balls are now much smaller but (still says there are approx 100)

Gave up on the ‘big’ brands. Now buy Nicky toilet rolls in Farmfoods, Less than £4 for 18 rolls, and it’s good stuff. Gave up on the ‘big six’ for energy too. I would recommend at least trying the Nicky toilet rolls, they even smell nice

I sent an email to my M.P., concerning this matter as someone from a Watchdog group made a Super Complaint last year but, I’ve heard nothing since then. I recall her saying that Companies have to respond whereas just an ordinary complaint would go unreplied.

I was passed onto a Tesco Manager who told me, via email that Supermarket own Brands are cheaper than Branded goods. I know that so, somewhere along the line the wires look crossed.

I do feel we’re being ripped off not just by the makers of Andrex but, by all Manufacturers of every Product in the Shops. Everyone is talking about it.