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Jun 20, 2008 02:40 PM

Faker's dozen - Doritos less filling, Country Crock slimmer, 11 egg dozen?

From this article about companies reducing sizes instead of raising prices, Edgar Dworsky, an editor of a consumer website and former Massachusetts assistant attorney general says ...

"Downsizing is nothing but a sneaky price increase,I'm waiting to open a carton of eggs and see only 11."

Ok, I knew about yogurt containers and mayonaise sizes decreasing. Also, knew that ice cream was no longer sold in half gallons but I'm surprised to see the size has once AGAIN been cut by another cup.

I was surprised to see some other products downsized ...

- Some Frito-Lay chip bags are smaller
- Shedd's Spread Country Crock lost three ounces
- Kellogg downsized Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Mini-Wheats
- General Mills downsized Cheerios and Wheaties

Paper towels they've been playing with for quite a while. They come out with those double or mega rolls and when you look at the regular roll, it is smaller. Eventually the mega roll starts getting smaller too.

If you wash your hands with Dial soap after cooking ... that's smaller too. Supposedly 10% of all grocery products have decreased in size.

There's even a new job that came out of this ... consultants who tell companies how to reduce size without customers noticing.

And anyway ... it is the opinion that customers want reduced sizes rather than price increases.

Sounds like a good time to finally switch to the metric system. We would all be so confused that who would know if prices are higher.

There were a couple of consumer action tips
- look at unit prices rather than package prices to determine if there is a price increase
- complain to the company

I like the idea that companies that changed sizes would be required to label the package .. ah the beauty of seeing "NEW REDUCED SIZE". Maybe that is a third thing to do ... write our legislators and ask for such a law.

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  1. Not unlike the 12 ounce "pound" of coffee now so ubiquitous. Do they think were all dum? (spelling intentional...)Just don't f*ck with my liquor or wine bottles, please!! Will a fifth be a fifth smaller?! Ada. (formerly, Adam but I downsized my name. ;)

    1 Reply
    1. re: adamshoe

      Oddly enough, E&J Brandy just changed their bottle which makes it look like you are getting less. There was the old glass bottle and the new plastic bottle side by side ... they still held the same amount. I guess the savings was in packaging rather than reducing quantity.

    2. This has always been a pet peeve of mine. The smaller size often comes with a "New! Improved!" claim on the front, which is really their attempt to distract you from the fact that they reduced the size. It really messes with recipes, especially older ones that call for then-commonly sized items (usually something like canned tomatoes or evaporated milk or a "box of sugar," etc.).

      I personally would MUCH prefer a price increase than a sneaky shrinkage in size, and I have complained about this to the manufacturers about this in the past. Apparantly, I am in the minority, because I'm always told that test marketing shows that people respond worse to outright price increases. Whatever! It just goes to show that many people are dumbies, because selling you a smaller amount for the same price is exactly the same thing as a price increase.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DanaB

        oooh...didn't even think about the recipe factor. It is to shudder...If they change the size of the condensed milk can, thousands will be serving inferior fudge and bar cookies at Holiday time!!! The Horror...Ad (downsized again....)

        1. re: DanaB

          People respond worse to price increases because it really DOES take them a while to realize the size shrinkage. It's as simple as that. It doesn't take a lot of test marketing. It just takes careful package design.

          BTW, the ice cream thing is spreading to pints. I've seen 14.x oz "pints" of something, can't remember which brand(s).

          Still waiting for the 1.75 quarts of milk, or maybe 1.75 liters of soda? Sneaky 11oz cans or 18oz bottles? It's weird the things that aren't changing vs the ones that do. It seems like boxes and bags of dry food lend themselves to change because they are sold by weight and always have air space and just in general we pay a bit less attention to the quantity in them. Ice cream is an anomaly here, though, because it's sold by volume. We know pints and quarts and half gallons, so it's interesting to see that change. And yet liquid seems to not change at all. Or maybe it still will, who knows? Coming soon, 3.5 quart "gallons" of milk? Oh yeah, and 10 egg (not 11) "dozens" and 12 oz "pounds" of butter and....

        2. Ah, but!

          "Also, knew that ice cream was no longer sold in half gallons but I'm surprised to see the size has once AGAIN been cut by another cup."

          If you buy Blue Bell ice cream, it's the same half gallon it always was. Not that I needed more incentive to eat Blue Bell, but nevertheless......

          Generally speaking, I agree this trend is quite annoying. But I can see how it's an unpleasant necessity. Most people look so strictly at package price, not per unit price.

          6 Replies
          1. re: thedoorchick

            Shucks, even the offerings in grocery stores are downsized.
            Cereal selections, a half of what used to be offered (and they darned near doubled the prices for the non-generics.)
            Baking section now shares the side of an isle with greeting cards.

            Ranting tonight, most people don't look at package prices, they just buy the easiest.
            I plan to keep on cooking, but getting the raw ingredients is getting harder. When only three of us are buying ginger root, the grocery store tried to substiture chopped giner in a bottle. (They've switched back.)
            I did laugh the other day looking at the 'fancy' cracker boxes had shrunk; I expect the air spaces in them have expanded to make up for the shrinkage (tongue firmly in cheek.) (I know that Mr. Shallots bought a bag of potato chips and the air space was 4/5 of the space, but the contents did weigh at what the back promised. Mr. Shallots somehow thought a big bag would have lots of chips. He's cute sometimes in his innocence.)

            1. re: shallots

              Chips are positively maddening with the air space.

              Which I suppose is a good thing; when at work and I run out for a sandwich, I never bother with any chips anymore. Not worth it.

              1. re: thedoorchick

                thedoorchick, I know it doesn't make sense, but that air space is necessary for the vacuum needed to keep the bag fresh. If there wasn't that 'air space' the bag would go stale in a day. Just like putting a piece of white bread on your counter.

                1. re: chipman

                  It also protects the chips. If there was no air space they would be much more easily crushed in the bag.

            2. re: thedoorchick

              There's even a new job that came out of this ... consultants who tell companies how to reduce size without customers noticing.

              Wowwwwwww. I shouldn't be surprised, but this surprised even the cynical me.

              I was on the phone to Dannon years and years ago, complaining about them reducing the size of the yogurt. And to Lipton, for them reducing the amount of packets in their cup of soup. Their answer to me? The customer wanted less product. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

              And of COURSE I was on the phone to Turkey Hill and the others when their ice cream went from 64 to 56 and now to 48 ounces. I don't remember the answer, something about a change in equipment -- CAN YOU IMAGINE? -- and they sent me coupons to shut me up.

              thedoorchick, count your lucky stars. Blue Bell isn't sold in the Northeast. I rue the day that BlueBell gets on the greed train along with all the other shysters who are doing this to consumers.

              I know, consumers, let's DO something about it.

              Oh, that's right. We can't.

              How sad.

              'an unpleasant necessity'.

              NECESSITY??? Shirley you jest. When did greed become a 'necessity'?

              1. re: dolores

                I loved when the reporter asked since there was now a 4-ounce Dannon Activia yogurt, would the 2-ounce yogurt container be next?

                Dannon, like Amy Winehouse said 'no, no, no'

                But you know ... you get hooked ... I wouldn't put it past them to see 2oz yogurt shooters.

                Write your legislators to reguest clear labeling ... we could ask old Amy if she'd let us use her rehab song with lyrics adjusted .. the product rehab lyrics

                They tried to make us buy resized products
                Customers said no, no, no.
                We gave them flack when smaller products came back so
                You wont know, know, know.

                I ain’t got the time
                To read labels that where the print is too fine
                They tried to make us buy resized products
                Customers said no, no, no.

                However, it is a never ending game ... they will then use cheaper ingrediants, pump more air into ice cream ... we'll probably see 'light' whipped mayo ... only small eggs will be sold ... etc

                Hmmm ... I rarely buy supermarket bread ... I wonder if there are the same number of slices per loaf these days.

            3. Why does this bother people?

              When a product is reduced in size, the package is clearly labeled with the new size and most supermarkets have the price / ounce (or whatever other relevant unit of measurement).

              So, really, isn't it incumbent upon us, the consumer, to be just a bit more diligent and less lazy when it comes to grocery shopping?

              Do we really need another law to "protect" little ol' consumer?

              And, also, isn't this really much ado about nothing? If all food prices are rising, then what does it matter if we "know" when a certain box of cereal or jar of mayo has shrunk but the price has remained the same? It's not like we're not going to buy that box of Cheerios, right? Esp. when every other box of cereal has increased in price by a comparable amount.

              20 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Wouldn't you agree that it's a bit more open to raise prices and keep the size the same, than to shave off an ounce (or in some cases, a .3 of an ounce) and keep the price the same? If the packaging looks exactly the same but for a change in 32 to 30 oz (I'm talking Mayonnaise here -- until I saw this article, I did NOT realize they'd changed the contents of a jar of Best Foods/Hellmans from 32 oz to 30 oz), and that change appears in the small print at the bottom of the container, how is a consumer going to know to look at that before they buy? It's deceptive, plain and simple.

                It's like the old time gig of putting the rotten tomatoes on the bottom and the pretty ones on top, or shaving a few ounces of gold off the side of a coin. There are many ways to pull this particular gag.

                I personally have no problem with companies raising prices to keep competative with the increase in their own costs, but where I get steamed is when they shave off an ounce and leave everything else visually the same.

                As I noted above, for one, it's a pain in the ass as far as recipes go. How many times have you bought that bag of walnuts (or chocolate chips, or . . .) only to come home and realize it's no longer a cup's worth, but 7/8ths of a cup? If that hasn't happened to you, more power to you, but personally, I'd like to go to the grocery store and not have it be an act in detective work . . . . hmmm, which brand has shrunk their size on me this week??? Is my can of tuna still 6-1/2 ounces, or has it shrunk to 6 oz? If I'm making a dip recipe that calls for 4 cups of mayo (god forbid ;-), do I now need to buy two jars of mayo, or will the size that was standard for umpteen years still contain the same amount?

                I find it very troublesome, personally. And I'm a math person who checks the ticket below the item that shows the price per volume ratio pretty much every time I shop. And I still didn't notice they'd cheated us out of 2 oz of mayo, and made the jar incompatable with regular measures of usage. I mean really, who would volunarily opt to buy 3 and 3/4 cups of mayo vs. 4 cups?

                Raising prices, I'm fine with. Shaving ounces off, and thus foisting a clandestine price increase on us, I'm not. As for whether there should be a law, I'm mixed on that. I'd like to think that companies wouldn't need a law to encourage them to not use deceptive consumer practices. Given this latest trend, though, I'm leaning in favor of regulating their asses.

                1. re: DanaB

                  >>So, really, isn't it incumbent upon us, the consumer, to be just a bit more diligent and less lazy when it comes to grocery shopping?

                  And this is why greed is good and stores and manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank.

                  Right, it's on the consumer to be more 'diligent'. Amazing.

                  >>Wouldn't you agree that it's a bit more open to raise prices and keep the size the same,


                  >>Given this latest trend, though, I'm leaning in favor of regulating their asses.

                  Exactly, exactly, exactly. But will it happen? Of course not.

                  1. re: dolores

                    >>So, really, isn't it incumbent upon us, the consumer, to be just a bit more diligent and less lazy when it comes to grocery shopping?


                    How much time do you think the average person has. Right now I'm reading every label of every product I pick up to see how much junk is in the ingrediant list.

                    So, IMO, yes ... I do think it should be legislated. As DanaB noted that even checking the unit price she missed the volume reductions.

                    I just sent letters off to my legislators requesting a change in the law. Maybe if enough people do that it would help ... or at least the corporations will give up the game and just openly up prices and be honest about it.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I hope this legislation never makes it off the ground, and in many ways such a law would be unfair to the food companies.

                      Why? Because there is nothing deceptive about what they are doing.

                      All products are clearly labeled, from the price to the size.

                      There is no deception.

                      It is not like stashing rotten tomatoes at the bottom of the bag. In that case you're getting a bad bill of goods -- e.g. $10 dollars for a pound of good tomatoes, but only getting 14 ounces of good tomatoes.

                      Here, with the reduced container sizes, you are clearly told (by the product label) that it is X dollars for Y ounces of product.

                      And, if you don't have time? Well, then, make time esp. if you want to save money. After all, it is YOUR money. If you can't find the time to save it, why should the onus be placed on a 3d party?

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Poor, poor food companies.

                        It is a deceptive way to raise prices.

                        I doubt that the legislators will take any action ... why?

                        1. If prices started getting noticably higher, people might start complaining that the pols actualy do something. Hey, they could ease the whole gas situation by selling gas by liters like in other countries and it would look like we were paying less.
                        2. Corporate lobbying

                        Was just reading an article about how restaurants are doing the same thing. You get five potstickers instead of six , they serve 4 ribs instead of 6 at another place, there's more ice in mixed cocktails, smaller servings of wine, soups are mainly broth, salads are mainly lettuce and less toppings, burritos are have more rice and bean fillers and less meat, sandwiches have fewer slices of meat.

                        My favorite was that in some restaurants a bowl of soup and a cup of soup are the exact same serving size ... only the containers are different. If you put a cup of soup in a big bowl ... voila.

                        Just be up front ... raise the prices.

                        1. re: rworange

                          I just don't want for the prices I pay to include the salaries of additional inspectors, agency executives and their limos and private cooks.).
                          The prices are already going to incorporate the cost of new packaging, new boxes, retooled automated packaging, and all the other adjustments that are made for smaller packages. As well as the costs of green disposal of any containers precontracted for. (Had they stuck to the old boxes and weights/vols there'd be no changes.) Just the prices on the shelves. Or is that too simple?

                          1. re: shallots

                            Big corps would much rather raise prices then make a smaller portion. Wall St. frowns on the downsizing of the packaging because it simply does not increase sales (as in Dollars) all it does is cut expenses. The company I work for has done both. And by the way, they have used the same packaging for the newer, smaller portion.

                          2. re: rworange

                            EGGGzactly, rworange. The politicos are getting paid off by the lobbyists, so of course they are not going to do anything.

                            And since the consumer is too amenable to raise their voices in protest, why shouldn't the food manufacturer hose them? It's a no brainer.

                            But restaurants are now into the 'less is more' game???? How fascinating.

                            I guess they'll put it under the heading of 'they're helping the obesity in America' BS.

                            How funny. Man, we are a stupid society.

                          3. re: ipsedixit

                            Yeah, those pooooooor food manufacturers. If they decide to hose the consumer, well the onus is on the consumer to move on and find another food manufacturer who isn't hosing the consumer.

                            Oh. Wait. With that logic, soon there WILL be no food manufacturer to move onto that isn't hosing the consumer.

                            What a funny logic.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I agree with you on all your points.
                              The problem is, that doesn't work in the real world. People are just not like that. We get lazy and half the time, we grab stuff off the shelf without a thought because we've been doing it for years.
                              Do you read the entire label of every product you put in your grocery cart every time?? I doubt it.

                              The bottom line here is that no one likes to feel like someone pulled a fast one on them. That is exactly what this is. It's not dishonest in the truest sense of the word. But it is in the spirit of the word. They're giving you less bang for your buck in a manner that they hope you don't notice. If you do, they try to smooth the waters afterwards.


                              1. re: Davwud

                                Jfood is not sure if this is federal or state, but in CT the shelves have the price for the package and the price per some unit size.

                                Granted not everyone reads every price sticker on the shelves, but it is there for the taking. And being lazy or grabbing stuff off the shelf without a thought is NOT the responsibility of anyone other than the customer. People need to take personal responsibility and not point a finger.

                                Jfood may not read the entire label of everything that goes into the cart but he looks at the price of everything he puts in the cart. And when the price gets too high for a product he moves on.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  jfood should understand that I'm not disagreeing with anything he says. I still maintain that no one is going to study the price and label of everything they buy at the grocery store and store all that product data in their heads for comparison every time they make a purchase in hopes of finding the needle in the haystack.

                                  As I said, it's not that what they're doing is illegal. It's just wrong is all.


                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Davwud and jfood,

                                    I'm glad the responses this time around are civil and well-mannered, so let me respond to each in kind.


                                    I agree with you that people are lazy, but is legislation really the right tool to address laziness? Maybe, but perhaps only in a utopian, Huxley-ian world. Take the example of buying soda at a convenience store (e.g. 7-Eleven) versus a more conventional supermarket. We all sort of "know" that 7-Eleven prices will be higher, but nonetheless they still do brisk business in soda sales? Why? Because, in part, people are lazy. It's just easier and faster to run into a 7-Eleven sometimes to buy soda than to go to your local Safeway, Food Lion, Vons, etc. In that situation do we really need a law to make 7-Eleven lower their prices? I hope not. So laziness really can't be the excuse that we have such legislation, right?

                                    As to being duped, or having a fast-one pulled on them ... isn't this the epitome of marketing v. consumer behavior. Companies/marketers are always in the constant rat-race to get the "one-over" consumers. From glitzy-targeted ads, to eye-popping and pleasing colors, to specially designed boxes and containers, it is always about trying to dupe the consumer. But there are legit ways of doing this, and deceptive ways.

                                    Legit? Changing a product's appearance to make it more appetizing, e.g. 100 calorie individual packets that cost more than the standard (and larger) bags of cookies.

                                    Deceptive? Advertising 100% fruit juice for a product that contains only sugar and water.

                                    Look, I agree with you that it's not illegal, but I also don't think it's wrong.

                                    The manufacturers are just trying to make money -- isn't that what they are in business for?

                                    jfood: Like you, I always read the labels, and usually look at the price/unit for most commodities (e.g. bread, cereal, condiments, etc.) that I buy.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      "civil and well mannered" oops, none taken, ever edit your own post to remove?

                                      Legislation has been approved to combat laziness and that is the reason for the price-per-unit tags. And like you the last thing jfood wants is congress wasting time on this versus getting our kids back from iraq and using the $12Bn in our economy versus coffins.

                                      Jfood takes some glee in watching TV commercials and looking for the gotcha's.

                                      But in the end it is each person's dollars that they spend and each needs to be responsible for these dollars. Is what they are doing wrong? Just can;t get to wrong. The choice was increase price or decrease size. Gotta pick your poison jfood guesses.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I guess you could compare it to the old time butchers putting their thumb on the scale. There were some that said all you needed was to be observant to make sure you weren't getting cheated.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          jfood counters by bringing helium filled containers to delis that charge by the oz.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            I'm working on a genetically -engineered habanero pepper filled with helium, such that green grocers will have to pay us to take them away.

                                            1. re: Veggo


                                              glad someone figured out the weird humor of the idea.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Hydrogen was my first thought, being lighter than helium...but the morning after habaneros can be pretty rough....and adding hydrogen to the mix ...too many memories of the Hindenburg in Linden returning to Lakehurst in your home state, jfood.

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                well, actually, there is deception. oftentimes, rather than decrease the overall size of a product, the manufacturer will just make it slimmer so it presents the same face as the old product. or they add packaging to keep the overall size similar to the old product. or, they use buzzwords & attention-grabbing graphics to draw attention away from the boring, black & white, tiny little fineprint at the bottom where you'll learn that sort of thing. (see the "selling it" page in any consumer reports for examples.)

                                so, while i agree that it is the consumer's responsibility to pay attention, and i disagree with legislating it, i do feel that there is deception.

                      2. So why is it getting so difficult to find a standard, 12-oz. can of soda. Most all that's available where I live in the small stores and cafes are 20 oz. bottles. Who the heck needs to drink 20 oz. of soda at a time?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Euonymous

                          I think 8oz used to be the standard, but it was before my time. I also grew up with 12 oz.

                          I actually don't really have too much of a problem with what the companies are doing reducing sizes. Deceptive? Well, they're technically not lying but they're altering the product to make the consumer think they're getting the same thing. So it's more of an ethical issue than a legal one. But consumers do need to take some responsibility and read labels and pay attention to unit prices. Amazingly, I find that you sometimes don't get a better bang for your buck when buying larger sizes.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            jfood believes that the history goes something like this and others will correct jfood's errors, tia.

                            coke controlled the market when upstart pepsi wanted to make a go of it. coke was sold in the ~8oz bottles. Pepsi did not have any money and found they could use discarded beer bottles, and buy them real cheap. But they were 12 or 16oz. So they decided to buy the bottles and charge the same as the 8oz coke. the rest is history.

                            1. re: jfood

                              The ubiquitous post WW2 Coke bottle with the thick green glass and the "waist" contained 6.5 ounces of product. The same volume of liquid fills a sphere 2.75 inches in diameter. For comparison, a tennis ball is generally 2.625 inches in diameter. That old Coke bottle is one of the earliest examples of successful deceptive packaging.

                              1. re: jfood

                                Actually, Coke was originally sold in 6 oz. bottles. That's why 7-Up is called 7-Up. It was sold in 7 oz. bottles. Before my time, but I'm pretty sure this is true.