James Doran – “Honey, they shrank the packets of food”


Honey, they shrank the packets of food

James Doran | July 13, 2008

The humble American consumer, already dogged by soaring petrol prices and declining wages, now has something more sinister to contend with: downsized groceries.

‘There is a grocery shrink ray that has been unleashed on supermarkets across America,’ said Ben Popken, editor of consumerist.com, a popular consumer affairs website.

Facing higher prices for ingredients and a tumbling dollar, American food manufacturers have been forced to tackle the issue of price inflation. But rather than increase the prices of packets of food on the shelves – which tends to steer consumers away from expensive branded goods towards cheaper varieties – many of the big food manufacturers have simply shrunk the size of their products while keeping prices steady.

‘That’s why we call it the grocery shrink ray,’ said Popken, adding that his website has seen a massive increase in alerts from users over recent weeks.

Kellogg’s has slashed the size of a wide variety of its cereal boxes by 2.4 ounces while Kraft has cut the number of slices of cheese in some packets from 11 to 10.

‘That’s a good one,’ Popken said. ‘There is a little green label on the package that says “sensible serving”. Kraft is giving you less for the same amount of money but it tries to claim it is helping you out fitness-wise.’

Unilever, the consumer goods company, is at the forefront of shrink-ray usage with jars of Hellmann’s mayonnaise shrinking to 30 ounces from 32 ounces. Unilever’s Country Crock margarine tubs were reduced by around 6 per cent, from three pounds to two pounds 13 ounces, and Breyers ice cream by 14 per cent from 56 ounces to 48 ounces.

‘Package-size reduction is mainly focused on the US, and is only one of our responses to dramatic input cost increases,’ a Unilever spokesman said.

Tropicana, the juice arm of Pepsi Co., hit back at opponents of the shrink ray, blaming the soaring price of oil for its decision to sell smaller containers of fruit juice without reducing prices.

‘Oil costs have skyrocketed,’ the company said. ‘Oil is used to make plastic bottles, fuel our factories, and ship our juice across the country in refrigerated trains and trucks. We had the choice either to increase prices or downsize the bottle.’

Popken agrees that you cannot beat inflation but thinks the consumer giants should stop trying to hoodwink consumers with the shrink ray.

‘Of course, I understand that prices must go up but please don’t insult my intelligence by using the shrink ray and thinking I won’t notice.’

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 4:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

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