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Shrinking Food Packages

Updated on November 29, 2016
Vincent Van Gogh Wheat Field and Crows
Vincent Van Gogh Wheat Field and Crows

Shrinking genetically modified corn flakes might be a good thing

Honey, I Shrunk The Groceries

Who says the price of food is rising? In spite of riots and civil unrest in many parts of the world, the price of a can of tuna here in the US has only risen a little bit. The boardroom of big food businesses like General Mills, Kellogg, Star-Kist, Kraft and many, many more are working overtime to keep our prices low.

So far this year, food prices are up an average of 15% in North America. Have you noticed the price increases on your favorite brands? Maybe not, to help control prices, some companies are again reducing the amount of food in their packages – and they are hoping you will not notice, maybe you will think your family is just eating more. Are you buying more and enjoying it less? Our problems are small compared to the rest of the world, the U.N. estimates that 44 million people have been pushed into poverty since last June because of rising food prices, which has led to civil unrest. Secretary of State Clinton said the world could no longer "keep falling back on providing emergency aid to keep the Band-Aid on.

RIP The American Consumer



What about the American consumers? We must all be dupes, easily led and easily fooled. Companies figured out a long time ago that we respond to price increases not package shrinkage. How many of us are old enough to remember a one pound can of coffee? Back in 1988, 60 Minutes did a story about the one-pound can of coffee. In ’88, they found that the pound can had shrunk to 13 ounces and by 2003 they found the lightest pound can of coffee weighed a mere 10.5 ounces. They also reduced the size of the writing on the can; so you had better bring your reading glasses when you go shopping if you want to know how much coffee, or any other product you are receiving.

General Mills is giving us the same size lid on a smaller size package of ice cream. There may be 12% less ice cream but at least we get the same size lid, after all, you want a big lid, don’t you? According to the NY Times, a can of Chicken of the Sea albacore tuna now holds five ounces instead of six and costs more. Bags of Frito Lay chips contain 20 percent less product than in 2009. This one is so easy for any chip manufacturer, they do not even need to redesign the package, just puff it up with a bit more air. Cereal, since 2008, Kellogg’s and General Mills have both reduced the amount of cereal in each box. The boxes look the same on a grocery shelf, just a bit thinner. Mars Company announced they were splitting their “King Size” Snickers bars in half, to make them “easier to share.” Try not to notice that you’re getting 11% less candy.

Everything is shrinking except prices

What Else

Other packages that are shrinking, ketchup, last year, the cost of tomatoes skyrocketed due to various freezes so Heinz and other companies had to raise the price of ketchup. They have also reduced the size of Heinz 57 containers by 11%. However, you may not notice unless you check the bottom of those containers. That is where you will find a “dimple.” As the dimple gets deeper, the amount in the bottle gets smaller. That is not restricted to food packages, Noxzema now comes with virtually a false bottom and many bottled products like shampoos and detergents have bigger dimples. Dimples on a young child’s smile can be cute, I’m not so sure about dimples on ketchup bottles. Back in 2008, Henkel of America downsized its Dial soap bath bar from 4.5 ounces to 4 ounces, Procter & Gamble cut the number of Bounty paper towels on a roll from 60 to 52, then brought out a 64 count roll as the new “Big roll.”

How do food prices affect you?

See results

What can we do as consumers?

  1. Pay close attention to the price panels on the shelf that list the unit cost, package sizes are designed to be misleading but the price panel on the shelf will allow the shopper to make a comparison between brands as well as package sizes.
  2. Save grocery store receipts. These will tell you both the price you paid as well as the size of the package you bought. A month from now you can price check against your own previous purchases.
  3. Become an informed shopper, when you learn what stores are charging for an item, you will recognize when the item is a bargain, this is especially helpful when shopping the big box stores. Sometimes their prices are fabulous but sometimes they charge as much or more than your local market.
  4. Shop the sales and stock up. Publix is our most prevalent local market and each week they offer a number of two for one-price items. If those are items you use, that is when you stock up.
  5. Switch to store brands, many of the store brands are quite good and much less money. The only way to find out is to try a test can or box.
  6. How do you save money? Send a comment!

What Do You Do To Save?

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    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 

      4 years ago from Illinois

      At least someone else is aware of this growing issue :)

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Jillian

      I'm just learning about shopping and values now that I'm unemployed. What an eye opener to see so much sleazy marketing to the uninformed

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Donna Lichtenfels 

      8 years ago from California, USA

      Dear Chef Lee,

      We are on the same page here. Thank your for confirming that prices in the US have risen more than reported in the government statistics I found. Knew it was not my imagination.

      The injection of air into the packages is one trick that the manufacturers are using to fool the consumer. Have also found a way around the tuna prices. The large can always goes on sale for $2.99. It contains 12 ounces. Instead of buying a large can, I wait til the smaller cans go on sale for 99 cents a can (5 ounces each) and buy 3. I end up with 15 ounces for less than one 'large' can.

      Great article! People who do not read labels are fools!

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 

      8 years ago

      Like most people, I made adjustments as my circumstances changed. I stopped buying so many shoes, don't eat out as frequently. I suppose it's my trade-off to shop and eat what I want. I'm going to hang on to this good advice just in case I get weak for an extravagant pair of shoes and have to cut down on the grocery bill. :) up/useful


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