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ALERT: Smaller package sizes = higher prices. Guilty parties listed herein . . .

I want to start a thread with a list of manufacturers that are surreptitiously reducing package size while keeping the price the same (or raising it).

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is an increase in price.

I'll start:

Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chips:

Old size: 11.5 oz
New size: 10 oz

You now get 10% less product for the same price. Of course, the packaging has stayed the same so most people don't notice.

Anyone else have any they've noticed?

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    1. I think it would be easier to list things that haven't shed weight. Still 12 eggs in a carton, for starters.

      But seriously, I think most people *do* notice. They just can't do much about it, except not buy the offending product. I seek out 6 oz. cans of tuna, like Whole Foods & Trader Joe's house brands, and I buy my coffee in bulk by the pound, rather than the 12 or 15 oz. package.

      12 Replies
        1. re: Chowrin

          Does that save you any money? The only place near me that sells unroasted coffee beans charges the earth for them, so I never gave it serious consideration.

          1. re: small h

            $5 a pound, or so, if you get their samplers. It saves me a ton of money -- it'd be at least double if I got it from a store, and for lower quality. And we have a master roaster in town.

            1. re: Chowrin

              Holy cow. That is interesting. I wonder if I could find anyone to roast it for me in my neck of the woods (Manhattan). Thanks for that link.

              1. re: small h

                I roast at home, using a fan in my apartment. If you've got two outside windows, it's doable, I figure.

                1. re: small h

                  Do some googling. I've been roasting single batches in an old air popper (well, 3 old air poppers in rotation). It's not difficult, and you tend to get really quality coffee, and more control over what stage you stop roasting (light vs. dark).

                  1. re: Ninevah

                    ... or tom's got quite a few roasters on that site i linked.

                    1. re: Ninevah

                      I did do some googling, and I'm a bit concerned about ventilation, and chaff. I live in an apartment, and while it's reasonably airy in here if I open all the windows, I think roasting coffee might set off my fire alarm. And my neighbors' fire alarms. And their neighbors' fire alarms.

                      1. re: small h

                        I haven't set off any smoke detectors yet, but it does get reasonably smoky in the house. As for the chaff. . . you can place the 'blower' end of the popcorn popper pointing at a sink that's got about two inches of water in it. Catches nearly all of them.

                        Except for the first two batches, I've been doing my roasting outside, because of the smoke and the smell.

                        1. re: small h

                          we use fans! and using my behmor, it never sets off anyone else's smoke detector (have used at multiple places, with just a cross current of air -- two windows open)

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            Alright then. I'll keep my eyes open for a second-hand hot air popper. Conceivably, I could roast on my balcony if necessary. I can't see that being prohibited as it's not an open flame.

                            1. re: small h

                              if you buy a behmor, it's really just a few lightbulbs.

            2. The Ghirardelli thing PISSED me off.

              others i know...
              Haagen Dazs
              Nabisco Graham Crackers
              Kellogg's Cereals
              Reese's PB cups

                1. Your post might just as well have been titled "Alert: Rising food costs cause producers to raise prices". Really, are food producers expected to keep the prices they charge for the food they produce the same, when the cost of raw ingredients is rising? And since the package weight is clearly printed on the package, what is surreptitious about it? The cost of beef has risen dramatically, while the cuts/packaging remain the same. Is that another example of surreptitious price raising? The cost of cotton goods has gone through the roof, so you are paying much more for your t-shirts, sheets, napkins and the sort, no different than what food producers are doing.

                  Increased costs at the producer level are reflected in increased prices at the retail level. That's normal in a free market. How they increase price differs - offer less product at the same price, or keep product quantity the same and raise the price. Basic free-market economics.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: janniecooks

                    I hear you. I just wish they'd raise the prices if they need to and keep the package weight the same.

                    1. re: Whinerdiner

                      I agree. I understand that prices fluctuate, but I'd rather they just change the price of an item and not the package size. Or if they are going to change the package size at least make it clear that it is different.

                      1. re: viperlush

                        Now presenting your favorite "X" -- same great flavor you know and love, now available in a smaller package!

                        Prices may vary.

                        1. re: Emme

                          "Because our customer research told us they prefer less of our fantastic product but want it to take up the same amount of storage space."

                    2. re: janniecooks

                      The surreptitious part is yes, it is labeled but especially with coffee, you need a magnifying glass to read the weight.
                      What bothers me, is that many recipes call for amounts based on old package and can sizes so many times you have to by more of something than you need.

                      1. re: janniecooks

                        Thank you for being the voice of reason, Jannie. People hear about rising fuel costs and droughts and for some reason it takes them by storm every goddamn time that the price of FOOD goes up. Christ on a bicycle, people, get a clue! Food is one of the things that gets caught in every single resource tangle and the price goes up- hurricane in the Baja? Yuma raises their lettuce or cabbage prices.Storm falters before it hits the Baja Peninsula, no effect on the Yuma crops from the hurricane. Price stays the same. I hate the hell out of it, but that's how it goes.You should not be surprised that it happens.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          Well, there are a gazillion posts about this on this board. So for the gazillionth time, it is NOT the smaller package size. It is the deceipt by companies of shaving off an ounce or two and hoping customers don't notice. Just raise the price and be honest about it. Also, as someone said, it screws up recipeis.

                        2. re: janniecooks

                          Of course not. I understand input costs are rising.

                          People shop by price. This is why they reduce the size of the package rather than increase the price.

                        3. There will always be some who will defend deceptive practices, but I think it's just plain sneaky. In a local grocery store I saw a couple of senior citizens trying to decide on which bacon was the best deal. The store brand was $4.49, the national brand was $4.79. Easy choice, huh? One brand about 6% less than a visually identical product.

                          Except that the store brand contained 375grams; the national brand 500grams. So the store brand contained 25% less, although the package was identical in terms of "footprint". It's easy and fun to trick senior citizens....but this couple now know better, and were grateful for the unsolicited advice.

                          Many, many people have purchasing habits based on past experience and yep, trust. Some people have poor vision and believe that when they select a product in an identically sized package, that package will contain the same amount. In the case of Neilson Ice Cream, they've revamped the packaging so that the amount is invisible when the product is displayed in the freezer; in fact it's on the back of the package. I'm sure that that was a purely aesthetic decision, huh?

                          Of course sooner or later the law of diminishing returns will start to apply; manufacturers will take a step too far, and people will notice. I'm already seeing products advertised as having the "normal" size, 2 litres of Ice Cream by Chapman's for example. Good on them.

                          I understand rising prices. I loath what I see as blatantly deceptive marketing.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: SherBel

                            Deceptive Marketing Trick Number 3: Pricing all your ice cream varietals at the same price. You know they don't all cost the exact same... but if the cherry chocolate cost more, you wouldn't buy it as much.

                            1. re: SherBel

                              All the supermarkets I have shopped in provide unit pricing on the shelves. usually is very easy to compare prices at the unit level so the package weight is immaterial. Unit price displays has been in practice for years, if not decades.

                              1. re: janniecooks

                                That's how I always compare similar products. Yes, I shop with my reading glasses on, and sometimes have to bend way down to read it, but otherwise, it's not so clear, even to a non-senior.

                                1. re: tracylee

                                  Yeah, there's no law about how small those unit prices can be. They are difficult to read and don't give me that I need to shop by unit price and scrutinize each item on each shelf. Maybe that is to get us to excercise in the market? Up, up, up ... .down, down, down.

                                  Unit prices were there to compare products of the same type or if the big size was really less espensive than the smaller size. ... so you could make a decision betweeen generic food and national brands. Not to check if each and every manufacturere is trying to pick your pocket.

                                  Also ... the latest mix and match scam .. buy 10 and get the discount ... well, one store took off the regular price. You only have the 10 for 1 price and can't even see the regular price. I swear if I have time, I'm going to pick up ever single such item in the store bring it to check out to find the real price and reject them one by one.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    How about skipping all these fixed prices, and going back to the good old days when you haggled for each item? Did you enjoy that kind of shopping in Guatemala?

                                    Another way around the shrinking package size is to stop buying so much packaged stuff. Stick to the outer aisles of the grocery, where produce and meat are sold by weight. Yes sometimes I have translate between unit pricing and weight pricing, but that's all part of choosing which items are seasonal and good deals.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      Let me repeat ... slowly. It is NOT about food costing more ... NOT ... about ... food ... costing ... more. .

                                      It is about shaving off an ounce or two and hoping the customer doesn't notice ... the modern equivalent of the butcher putting his thumb on the scale.

                                      Actually, there's not much to be done' in Guatemala. People shop for the day. Everything is almost in single serving size. I kind of miss that. despite the wasteful packaging. Sometimes I just want a small quantity of something.

                                      One thing that was done is half cans and bottles of soda ... but is wasn't something sneaky. Companies ADVERTISED the new, cheaper bottles that were half price. They did NOT shave off an ounce of the regular bottle.

                                      What a concept. If companies are worried about customers rejecting higher prices, offer a half size option and be upfront about it.

                                      But let me tell you ... when the tortilla ladies started selling 4 tortillas for a quetzales instead of 5 the stink raised by the local ladies was enough to change that almost immediatly.

                                      OK, I can't remember the exact price and number of tortillas. All I know is they were selling one less and I didn't need to know much Spanish to understand these women were being talked about like dogs.

                                      The ladies stopped buying tortillas and started making them at home. These women were not going to put up with this kind of thing.

                                      So ... prices went up. They felt that was more honest. Maybe we have something to learn from a third world country... and my Polish granny wouldn't have put up with this stuff either. I still remember the stories of dishonest butchers and such. Those were the days of public shame if someone tried to rip you off. Now we just shrug our shoulders and say "Isn't it too bad, but you can't do a thing about it".

                                      Stop buying the product. Complain.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        ... and this is why I shop at costco. their milk prices respond to dairies, and their ice cream stays one gallon.

                                2. re: janniecooks

                                  That's how I do it. I never really noticed the packages getting smaller until seeming these threads. just hate when the measuring units aren't consistent.

                                  1. re: janniecooks

                                    Unless the units aren't the same for each brand of a particular product. I see this all the time.

                                  2. re: SherBel

                                    There should be a per oz price posted for the bacon, no? That's how I assess what brand to buy, unless I prefer a certain brand. But often I can't read the per oz price because the print is fine, and/or the posted price is near the floor. I have also noticed very find print on some packages.

                                  3. They call it marketing. I think fuel prices had a lot to do with all the prices going up. You really have to look at the products now as others have pointed out same size box but different weights.

                                    1. Charcoal. It used to come in 20 lb. bags, then 18, now 16.6. For a while, the Publix brand still came in 20 lb. bags but they too have lowered the weight to 16.6.

                                      The Kingsford "Competition Briquettes" do come in 18 lb. bags at Costco.

                                      The chocolate chip reduction is a pain because my cookie recipe calls for 12 oz. I either have to use less in the recipe (who wants to do that) or buy 2 bags.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: AbbyWis

                                        Poland Spring water is no longer a true gallon! It's water!!!, for chrissakes!!! Abby, btw, Home Depot in NJ had bundles of (2x20lbs.) on sale last week for $9.97. Incredible price for the true 20lb bag. They are out there, you just have to really look for them.

                                        1. re: AbbyWis

                                          Or you could do a little math and scale down the recipe. i realize that can leave you with odd measurements like .83 eggs, but it can be done or fudged a little. One more reason why I like recipes in weights (especially grams) - easier to scale up or down as needed.

                                          1. re: babette feasts

                                            i understand that prices are driven by so very many things, like the price of chocolate going through the roof because of war in the ivory coast, etc. for the most part i am not bothered, but the chocolate chip thing got me too. i was using a recipe that called for grams, so i weighed out what i needed. when i weighed what was left in the bag, it was still short of even the package label. pfffttt. now i know better and simply stock up. stoopid though.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              Isn't that just brilliant ... for the stockholders. Not only do you get a smaller size for the same price, but you are forced to buy two packages instead of one.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                give it a few years. chocolate won't stay a cash crop forever.

                                          2. I've become aware of this (trick? mistake?) with cottage cheese. I don't know if the retail store is doing it or the dairy, but the quart container is sometimes priced higher than 2 pint containers. Easy to miss that!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: blue room

                                              I've often encountered this, usually with dairy products. When I've seen it however, it's generally been the result of smaller containers being on sale, and thus priced lower than the typically less expensive larger or 'bulk' container. A recent example from Safeway was Kraft cheese slices, 500gr packages were 'two for $6.50' on sale, the one kilogram package (that's 1000gr for you non-metric types) was $8.49. I don't know if this fits into my personal definition of sneaky marketing though....it's a sale, not regular prices.

                                              1. re: blue room

                                                The larger package isn't always less expensive for lots of items. The ketchup at my store is less expensive on a per unit basis for the $1 24 oz. Bottle than on the 48 or 64 oz. Bottles. You should alwAys look at the unit cost on the price tag before assuming the larger size is the value size.

                                                1. re: mattwarner

                                                  I've noticed that with orange juice - the gallon jug is far more expensive than two half-gallons.

                                              2. Hor dogs ... damn it.

                                                They are repackaging them in half packs ... usually the cheaper brands like fud. There was a sale of two packages for $1. I picked one up and it was only half a pack. This ticks me off. Finally the number of buns in bags get matched to hot dogs in a package ... and it is screwed up again.

                                                Sliced white bread ... I think. I don't buy enough to say for sure. However, the number of slices is different with some one or two slices short. You need to look at the servings per package to catch it.

                                                Yogurt has been shrinking for years.

                                                Halloween candy ... now try to catch THAT one. Do you really remember how many pieces were in the bag last year?

                                                Hershey's Air delights ... or something like that. Same ingredients. Same taste. They pumped air bubbles into it. It is a little lighter ... same price as the original bar without added ... air.

                                                Some former posts on this subject

                                                .Now canned tuna has downsized


                                                The pumpkin can ... it's shrinking, shrinking, shrinking


                                                Ocean Spray - how trifling can you get?


                                                Since that post, most canned veggies and fruits have downsized

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Even my 13 year old daughter caught the air delight scam. She said "who wants chocolate with added air? You get less chocolate!"

                                                  Sorry -- I like my chocolate with chocolate not air.

                                                2. There is nothing deceptive about it. Every store I have been in has unit pricing so you can compare products by the pound,, quart, etc. And, if you can't read the unit-pricing signs, then do the math in your head or on a calculator you bring with you - not that hard. If the consumer is too stupid to do simple math, then tough - buyer beware. I repeat - buyer beware.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: thomas64

                                                    But it is deceptive when they change the package size. When a 15 oz can is now 14.8 oz or an .5 gallon ice cream is now a .33 gallon. The packaging appears to be the same, but it isn't. I didn't really notice the changes until recipe amounts were no longer matching up with the produce in hand ( bag of chocolate chips, can of tomatoes, etc.) because I shop by looking at the unit pricing signs. The unit pricing isn't changing, just the amount of food in the package. What people want is for the unit pricing to change and the amount of food in the package to stay the same.

                                                    1. re: thomas64

                                                      "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it'

                                                      -Edmund Burke

                                                      Laidlaw v. Organ 1817


                                                      While it doesn't exactly fit this, it was one of the first decisions that started to address caveat emptor (buyer beware). In the early 20th century a slew of laws were passed to protect consumers from coniving business practices.

                                                      As my fifth grade teacher taught us, "buyer beware" isn't acceptable. If a business is trying to take advantage of its customers by atempting to cover up info, that isn't right.

                                                      The current practices of downsizing are dancing on the edge of what a business can get away with.

                                                      To say that consumers must check every unit price (and they aren't always there), memorize previous package size, etc, etc, etc ... well, companies are counting that most people won't do that. Who honestly has time to do that. . It is a scam. Just be honest. RAISE THE PRICE. Don't try to hide the higher price by making small marginal changes to packaging hoping people are too busy or won't notice.

                                                      So yes, they consider the American consumer stupid. Maybe there should be a few new laws.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        What I really dislike is when the size, shape, and relative footprint of the packaging stays the same but they put a bigger bump in the bottom of the container so that it holds less or they just fill it less (as with the bacon example above).

                                                        1. re: Jen76

                                                          And that is the point for anyone who says this isn't dishonest. You see the same size package. What it the world would make anyone check the weight every single time, for each product purchased as well as the unit price. Often the weight isn't in the largest letters either.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            Surely you grew up reading the standard disclaimer on cereal boxes: "This package is sold by weight not volume".

                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              Those were the days when consumers might actually complain that the box they open was only 3/4 full. Cereal settles and compresses. That is a different thing.

                                                              I did not have to check the SAME size box for each purchase to see that the weight was constant. That is not the case today.

                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                              Well, that and the fact that my plastic mayonnaise container (or whatever product it was I bought recently where I ran into this issue) now has a giant inverted cone on the bottom that makes it nigh impossible to scoop the remaining product from the bottom of the container. Just make the darn thing smaller with a flat bottom.

                                                              1. re: Jen76

                                                                It must be easier/cheaper in production to keep the jar size the same and just adjust one part than to have to recalibrate a whole packaging line to a new size container. Not saying it's right, just saying.

                                                                What I find interesting is that the smaller sizes seem geared to the population that have really low cash flow - can afford to buy only this much until a little more is scraped together - when in reality, if cash flow were not the issue, more people would be better off buying larger 'bulk' sizes at a lower cost per unit. But then why would I think the manufacturers were really trying to provide the best options for the consumer?

                                                                1. re: babette feasts

                                                                  Which items do you have in mind? I think most small sizes are aimed at convenience, and are a good choice if they match with my needs. I buy an 8oz squeeze bottle of mayo for use in my camping cooler, an 32 oz for ordinary use, and never buy a restaurant gallon size. Similarly I only buy the smallest size can of chipoteles en adobo because I wouldn't have space to store anything larger.

                                                                  In most cases, you pay relatively more for packaging with smaller sizes. Small size also cost stores more to handle, which is why warehouse stores only sell large sizes or normal items in packs of 2, 4 or more. http://www.minimus.biz/ has made a business of selling individual sizes, not because their customers can't afford more, but because sometimes it is convenient to carry just one serving of mayo or day glow relish.

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    One interesting thing to me recently. A discount store was selling gallon jars of Miracle Whip for $3.99. The quart (or whatever they are these days) was $4.99.

                                                                    A couple was checking out the prices on mayo and going for the quart of MW. I pointed out the dollar less on the gallon. They talked about it and bought the smaller size that cost more. I kept thinking I'd buy the gallon and throw out what I couldn't use. A buck is a buck.

                                                                    Though it is not something I'd do for marginal unit price differences of pennies.

                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                      it lasts almost forever too. weird decision call on their part.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        I don't have room in my fridge for a gallon jar of mayo, much less MW (which I never buy). So if I bought it, I'd have to find another container(s) to store it in. I suppose a benefit would be that I another gallon jar to store stuff like dog food.

                                                                        Some people have oodles of space to store food, in the fridge, in a chest freezer, in an extra fridge in the garage, in the attic, in the backyard storage shed, in a rental unit. Others with a Manhattan size kitchen have to buy what they can use in the next week or two, and skip the big-box cost savings. I'm some where in between.

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                          Knowing this store, my guess is the super size was closer to the sell by date than the smaller jar. With this store that is not a bad thing as that is sometimes the reason for the deep discount.

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            I just finished off an 8 oz bottle of Best Foods with a 'best used by Jun 1 2011' date; having chosen that over the 1 qt size. I'm not stickler over 'best by dates', but the qt size felt like too much.

                                                                            Decisions like this should be fun, not something to loose sleep over.

                                                            3. re: rworange

                                                              Unfortunately I'm very late to this thread but wanted to thank rworange and all the others here who pointed out how dishonest the practice of down sizing really is. It's not as if the companies that do it say "NEW!! Less product/same amount of packaging/same price!" The whole point of keeping the package the same size is the hope that the consumer won't notice the difference. The biggest problem (as was already mentioned) is that when companies down size, it messes up recipes. The bag of chocolate chips (Ghiradelli 60% Cocoa has 15% less in the 10 oz bag than at the original 11.5 oz--and the 11.5 oz was already 1/2 an oz less than the majority of choc chips in the market) is an excellent example of this. Your recipe calls for a bag of chocolate chips...and now I'm supposed to get a second bag and a scale and figure it out??! That's the answer??? I don't think so--

                                                              And so now I have to jump thru all sorts of hoops trying to find a product that tastes as good as the 60% Cocoa chips that I've been using in ALL my chocolate recipes for years--and it really chaps my hide. But I'll be darned if I'm going to just shrug my shoulders and reward them w/my continued business for their deception. I get that prices go up--so raise the price. Don't piss off your long-time customers by being deceptive about it.

                                                              Thank goodness most of the posters here have the sense to see the deception for what it is--a trick of the company for the company...not some sort of benefit to the consumer who really does have better things to do than constantly try to ascertain if they're being swindled at the supermarket.

                                                              One last thing--not all stores and not all items have the cost per ounce comparison...and unless you take out a calculator and do the math yourself--you won't know if the numbers they post are even correct.

                                                              1. re: staceyjda

                                                                I agree. The food companies want to make money, I know. I'm going to give them money. Just be honest about what I'm getting in return. A little good faith goes a long way - I expect to be buying clean products that are advertised on the label (milk and not melamine, for instance), and I expect the product to be the size "advertised" both in print *and* visually. If they lie with numbers, that's a problem for me, and if they lie visually, that's a problem for me. I'm talking about an ethical dilemma.

                                                          2. Only read through half the posts here, and maybe someone has made the same observation but...
                                                            It seems to me that the practice is so rampant (and actually isn't really new...I remember MAD Magazine addressing the issue 45 years ago. LOL)...that it would be easier to name companies and products NOT doing the shrining volume/higher price thing.

                                                            It would be a pretty short list!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: The Professor


                                                              That last one, I want to give a big round of applause to the companies selling oatmeal. Recently prices doubled on oatmeal. I started eyeing the containers for downsizing. Nope. Still18 oz for small and 42 oz for large.

                                                              And guess, what? Yes it was a shock to see the higher price. I got over it. Prices rise. Thank you again oatmeal companies for handling this the right way.

                                                            2. Blue Bell Ice Cream is still a half gallon of heaven.

                                                              1. Breyer's ice cream. Not only did they ruin the product by putting more sugar and more air in the product, they also over two size reductions managed to make a half gallon package now a three pint package, a reduction of 25%.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                  This was the impetus for me learning to make my own.

                                                                  So far, it has been a good decision.

                                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                    Agreed, this was exactly coincidental with my not buying it anymore. Yuck, on all counts.

                                                                  2. If you want to argue that the price of food goes higher over time and manufacturers are entitled to pass along those costs, I think you need to address why, when the prices of those same commodities fall back to earth, manufacturers don't increase package size or lower the price.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: NotJuliaChild

                                                                      Manufacturers do in fact lowerprices. However, retailers don't pass the savings along annd choose to pocket the extra $$.(I work in the industry and have seen this twice in the last year)

                                                                    2. Is there anything that HASN'T been covertly shrunk to cut costs? Albertsons doesn't sell ANY 5 pound bags of sugar any more - every brand they carry has magically shrunk to four pounds, for a 20% product decrease. Products gradually shrink... and shrink... and shrink some more. And when they get small enough to be ludicrous, they introduce a 'new family size' for a suitably larger price and they start all over again.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Kajikit

                                                                        Noticed the other day that the 5 lb bags of C & H white granulated sugar are now 4 lb bags.

                                                                      2. Doritos bags hold fewer chips, but size of the bags seems similar.

                                                                        Entenmann's cakes smaller but packages not.

                                                                        1. a list of other products from 3 years ago

                                                                          along with a suggestion that manufacturer's should be required to label a package with some kind of warning statement (eg "New") when any size change has occurred

                                                                          and this:

                                                                          A pricing consultant has "advised many clients to make product size reductions, but also to slightly lower prices. Most consumers like smaller-portioned packages that cost less, even when they're paying more per ounce.

                                                                          It's a consumer mind game that's not always logical.

                                                                          'This isn't mathematical pricing,' the retail guru says. 'It's behavioral.' "

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: racer x

                                                                            Why is 'price per ounce' the all important measure of rational behavior?

                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                              The underlying assumption is that a person acting rationally should tend to choose the option that yields the best value (value here being assumed to mean the greatest quantity at the lowest price -- remember, we're talking about the same product, the only variable factor is how it is packaged and priced, and the difference in package sizes is small, not orders of magnitude).

                                                                              Size of the package and cost of the package considered independently are not reliable measures of best value, yet, due to an inherent weakness of the mind, we tend to fall into the “mental accounting trap” of focusing too much on size and cost as independent factors, and as a result, end up choosing the option that doesn't yield the best value. Marketers know this trap and try to use it to best advantage.

                                                                              1. re: racer x

                                                                                Okay I'll admit it, there are a few cases where I will buy a smaller container and pay a premium per unit for it simly for convenience. For example if the item is one that, once opened is highly perishable, I may pay a premium for a unit small enough I can feel confident I can use it up all in one go. The main thing I can think of would be things like packaged crab meat (real crab meat, not surimi). I tend to like the semi premium lump kind (like they sell at the fish counter and you have to keep in the fridge. to make things like my crab melts. However the good stuff usually comes in cans that are about 2lbs/ That's an awful lot of crab to try and use up in one sitting. And since I usually don't get the craving for a crab melt more tham once every four weeks or so, I used to have to resgin myself to tossing half to 3/4 of the (pretty expensive) can away every time I wanted one (and please stope telling me about buying whole crabs and cooking them myslef. No one ever taught me how to get crab meat out of a crab, so I have never been able to do it.). Recently one of the companies started selling the crab in 8oz pouches. I almost jumped for joy. One packet makes 1 melt, no lefovers. Problem solved. It's one of the cases where I am GLAD to pay a higher per unit price.

                                                                                1. re: racer x

                                                                                  The crucial qualifier is 'the difference in package sizes is small'. It tries to remove issues like convenience, storage limits, shelf life, etc from the equation, and just look at minor differences in size and value. Instead of asking the consumer to choose between an 8oz squeeze bottle of mayo and a 32oz jar, they are asked to choose between 32oz and 30oz.

                                                                                  For a manufacturer processing thousands of dollars of ingredients and final product, the question of whether consumers would be happier with a 10% reduction in product size, or 7% increase in price can translate into big bucks. For the consumer that isn't such a big deal.

                                                                                  Long ago I stopped buying Best Foods mayo at retail prices, choosing instead to look for sales, clearance prices at Grocery Outlet, alternatives such as TJs or store brands.

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    There's another factor - how frequently do they make the changes. 10 steps of 7% is the same as 7 steps of 10%. Changing the package size requires new packaging, new labels, and maybe even new packaging equipment. At the very lease the packaging line has to be shut down to be recalibrated. That would discourage the manufacturer from making a downsize change very often.

                                                                                    In the long run the per quantify price is going to rise, roughly on par with overall food prices. The question for the manufacturer is - how to accomplish this without the customers jumping ship, switching to competitors, or alternatives like generic or homemade.