Products Downsized!

More and more products lose weight all over the place

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Weight loss may be good for you and me but not for products if we end up paying the same for them.

From toothpaste to tuna fish, hot dogs to hand soap, chocolate and other products, companies have been shaving ounces and inches from packaged goods for years, usually blaming it on rising costs for ingredients and energy or even claiming that there has been not change in size. The latter was the case with “wagon wheels”, a confectionery product from Rowantree, now part of Nestle, which has become rather smaller, much smaller, ever since Nestle took over the company and that is aside from the fact that the taste has also changed to the sickly.

While the companies may have a point when it comes to higher commodity and fuel costs and those are expected to cause a spike in food prices by as much as 3 percent in 2011, it is not and cannot be the whole answer.

Also, while manufacturers are skimping when costs go up, why are the not more generous when costs hold steady or fall? The answer is that they simply are only interested in fleecing the consumer.

No one likes a price hike, but what riles consumers the most are the ways manufacturers hide their handiwork. This goes from indenting the bottom of containers, which is a favorite trick among peanut butter processors, or cosmetics, over whipping ice cream so that you pay for air instead of ingredients, to adding water into the products, a favorite of meat processors, so you pay for water, and get less product. And those are but a few examples.

Those moves may fool some people, but most have caught on. Three-quarters of Americans have said in a survey that they noticed that packages were shrinking, and 71% of those people theorized that the main reason was to hide a price hike. Yet half said they would prefer that companies rather keep the old package and raise the price. So why don't they?

The reason for this is rather a simple one. People are much more conscious of price than they are of package size or net weight of contents. Slight downsizing is often imperceptible, whereas price increases are about as subtle as a pie in the face. And when prices rise, consumers more often than not seek out cheaper alternatives and/or store own brand products.

Store brand products are a good alternative anyway as, in general, they often are up to a quarter or so less in price than the brand product and often you get exactly the same or, as in the case of Sainsbury's Basics Chili Con Carne, you get better even than the brand kind which is nigh on double the price and which, instead of minced beef – as with the store brand – lists “reshaped beef”.

The same goes for other store brand products and that includes the “white label” basics product ranges.

Lidl in the UK sells a brand of dark chocolate digestive biscuits that are half the price of the McVittie brand ones and, according to information, are made in the same factory where the McVittie ones are made.

A bit like the claim “Kellog's does not make corn flaked for anyone else” because they are made from them in other factories.

Take a good and long look at the brand products you buy and then check them out against the cheaper alternatives and always, always, check the weight and compare against what you know it to be or have been. Don't allow yourself to be ripped off by manufacturers.

© 2011