Americans May Be Expanding, But Food Is Shrinking

Photo (cc) by truds09

With Cuba Gooding Jr. yelling “Show me the mini!” Pepsi is undoubtedly hoping you’ll overlook the fact its new 7.5-ounce cans sell for almost as much as 12-ounce cans in much of the country. It’s just the latest – and perhaps most flagrant – attempt by a company to convince you less is more.

According to government figures, nearly 70 percent of us are overweight or obese. But it’s apparent we’re not getting bigger because we’re downing super-sized bags of chips. No, many bags of chips have actually gotten smaller in years past. So too have cookies, crackers, peanut butter and a host of other products you buy every week.

Watch the video below to see Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson reveal the sneaky way companies are padding their bottom line. Then keep reading to learn more about which products are getting smaller and how you can fight back.

The incredible shrinking product packages

Mouse Print calls it downsizing, while Consumerist describes it as a grocery shrink ray. Whatever you call it, package sizes have definitely taken a dip in recent years. Here’s a sampling of products that have dropped their size but not their prices, according to those websites.

Tide Liquid Detergent

  • Old size — 100 ounces.
  • New size — 92 ounces.

Charmin Ultra Soft

  • Old size — 176 sheets (4.27 inches wide per sheet).
  • New size — 164 sheets (3.92 inches wide per sheet).

Pantene Conditioner

  • Old size — 22.8 ounces.
  • New size — 21.1 ounces.

Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh

  • Old size — 9 ounces.
  • New size — 8 ounces.

Chobani Yogurt

  • Old size — 6 ounces.
  • New size — 5.3 ounces.

You can find more examples at Mouse Print and Consumerist. Ritz crackers, Jif peanut butter and Ocean Spray juice are among the other offenders.

Why are products getting smaller? Well, companies have all sorts of justifications. Charmin told Mouse Print it reduced the sheet width on its toilet paper in order to add enhancements such as comfort cushions and to make it easier for the company’s “most demanding users” to flush.

Meanwhile, Chobani told The Boston Globe it only had customers’ best interests at heart. The company was apparently concerned you would be confused trying to compare the nutritional information on its 6-ounce containers with the information listed on its competitors’ smaller packages. Ah, how sweet of them to care.

7 ways to get your money’s worth

It’s a stark reality that product packages will likely continue to get smaller. Regardless of how the companies try to spin it, that’s not good news for you.

Here are seven ways to fight back:

1. Watch out for redesigned packaging

Your favorite brand’s new packaging may look snazzy, but it may also hide a reduced size. When you come across a new design stocked next to an older version of the same product, compare the package size. If the new design is smaller, you may want to stock up on the older packaging while you can.

2. Shop by unit price

Another way to ensure you’re getting the best value is to always shop by unit price rather than package price. That way you don’t get tripped up by comparing the price of a 10-ounce bag of chips with a 13-ounce one.

Most grocery stores list the unit price on shelf tags, and some states even require that this information be displayed. Of course, if your store doesn’t show the per-ounce or per-pound price, you could always pull out a calculator and do the math yourself.

3. Track prices

For the super-organized out there, you could use a price book to watch for changing product sizes and prices. In the olden days, savvy shoppers would use a notebook to track per-unit prices on their favorite purchases to help them identify pricing trends and to find the best deal. Today, you can use apps like ValueTracker and Sharky Shopping to do the same thing.

4. Buy on sale and use a coupon

With so many products on a downward slide, it seems like paying more for less is the wave of the future. However, you can keep your costs down by buying items only when they are on sale. For double savings, try to combine a coupon with a sale whenever possible.

Shoppers can use subscription sites such as SavingsAngel.com and TheGroceryGame.com to match coupons to sales, and there are literally hundreds of blogs posting coupon matchups for free each week.

5. Don’t be brand-loyal

Brand loyalty doesn’t help when it comes to getting the best value. Rather than sticking with the rapidly shrinking brand names, take a gander at the private-label items on the shelves. They may be available in a larger size and be every bit as tasty or effective as the big brands.

6. Look for older packages

Once a brand downsizes, that doesn’t mean all the larger packages instantly disappear. They may be sold in dollar stores, warehouse stores or outlet shops. Keep your eyes peeled for packages with an older-style label, which may indicate a larger size. Then, depending on the shelf life of the product, buy extras for future use.

7. Write to the manufacturer

Finally, let the company know you’ve noticed its sneaky change and are unhappy about it. Of course, they’re not going to add back the missing ounces just for you, but you may get some short-term reward for your effort.

Many companies send out coupons and even samples to complaining customers. In the long run, manufacturers might think twice about shrinking their products if they know enough shoppers are paying attention.

Have you noticed shrinking food at your local grocery store? Share your story in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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