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Are shrinking products a sneaky way of increasing prices?

Supermarket trolley

You might remember our debate about smaller creme egg packs. Well, there’s more. Not only have we uncovered a host of other everyday shrinking products, the sun’s at it too…

You might have missed it due to cloudy weather (at least we did in London!), but this morning the sun’s rays shrank into a total solar eclipse. And it’s not the only thing that’s been shrinking.

We discovered 13 shrinking supermarket products in our latest investigation, using data from the independent shopping website mysupermarket. Some had shrunk by as much as 50g! For example, a pack of Birdseye vegetables was 8% smaller, but still cost £2. And a bottle of Cif was still £2 in Asda, even though it had had a 7% reduction.

You can check out the other shrinking products in our online gallery, or by turning to p20 of the April issue of Which? magazine.

You all seemed to notice

Our Facebook fans have also been spotting shrinking supermarket products. Wendy’s been on the case for a some time:

‘Nearly every product has shrunk in size – I noticed 12 months ago.’

Belinda has noticed shrinking too:

‘Chocolate has definitely shrunk, be it bars or packets of chocolate products. Packets of crisps seem to be a little on the meagre side too!’

Why are products shrinking?

When we contacted food manufacturers about their shrinking products, some said this was due to economic factors. Heather, who commented on our Facebook page, seems to agree with this explanation:

‘The cost of raw materials eg. sugar ,flour chocolate oil etc went up in recent years. So ask yourself this question: smaller but same price or same size higher price?’

However, we think shrinking products can be a sneaky way of putting up costs for customers. Though WImpsh on Twitter saw a silver lining:

Why do you think products are shrinking? Would you prefer the same-sized product at a higher price?

Comments
Guest
Stewart M says:
21 March 2015

Tropicana Creations have reduced in size from 1litre to 850ml. In Tesco it is even sneakier. They are doing a 2 for £3.50 offer and include the 1 litre cartons of grapefruit and orange juice.

Then add to the insult the text is still the same identifying a 200ml portion would be one of your five portions of fruit a day. So you are left with a 50ml at the end or you reduce your porition size to get five portions out of the carton.

Guest

“Fruit juice should not be part of your five a day, says government adviser”
“Fruit juice has as much sugar as many soft drinks and should be removed from five-a-day guidance, says obesity expert”
And what has happened to this advice from 2014….

Guest

I agree. Even unsweetened fruit juice can contain a lot of sugar. It’s better to eat the whole fruit, which will help limit the amount we consume and will probably provide more fibre.

Eating a couple of portions of fruit and as much vegetables as possible should be the message.

Guest

I think Topicana Creations are a cunning way of using up left-overs from various tanks in the fruit juice production process by concocting some unusual combinations and presenting them as a premium product at a higher unit cost [i.e. same price, less volume].

Guest

Lessons in production economics and marketing in one sentence. Very good John.

Guest

Today I tried to use a Tesco voucher when buying a carton of Tropicana fruit juice and was told at the checkout that the voucher only applied to the 1ltr and over sizes [it was in tiny print which I had not noticed]. Yet the cartons are exactly the same size as the previous 1 ltr packs and I don’t think the store staff have realised that there is less product in each carton. Like Stewart, I was a bit annoyed to find that I couldn’t get five glasses of juice out of the box. It’s not part of my 5+-a-day, it’s just that I can’t function first thing until I’ve had some pineapple juice. There must be something in it that oils my spring.

Guest

Stewart – I notice that Tropicana have changed the portion volume to 150 ml re are now five and two-thirds portions in a carton. So the smaller pack now contains more servings! More bamboozlement!

In itself, reducing portion sizes is not a bad thing but not to disguise a price hike.

Guest

I am more likely to notice a product’s reduced size than its increased price. Manufacturers are not doing themselves any favours, as I don’t think that consumers are particularly price-sensitive to small percentage changes in supermarket prices, whereas the reduced size of a product can be more noticeable.

Guest

I don’t know if this is true, but I believe that decreasing the amount is rather dishonest compared with a price increase.

By remembering unit prices of products we buy regularly, we can spot both price rises and smaller packs.