Incredible Shrinking Package: Consumers Paying More for Less
See What Manufacturers Are Doing to Shrink Your Cereal, Juice and Even Toilet Paper
Oct. 27, 2010
Buying a "pound" of bacon may not mean what it used to. Americans are getting less sizzle for their buck.
ABC affiliate WEWS found that some companies, like Hormel, are packaging bacon in 12-ounce portions instead of the former standard of 16 ounces -- a full pound.
The shrinking amount of bacon isn't the only thing fooling you at the grocery store.
Tod Marks, senior editor with Consumer Reports magazine, said the trend of shrinking packages is because of "input inflation." The high costs of ingredients and production have forced some manufacturers to give consumers less product for the same price.
"A price increase in this economy is the kiss of death," Marks said. "They'd rather kind of play a shell game with consumers, a little bit of trickery and, hopefully, the consumer won't notice that the product is, in fact, shrinking."
The changes are slight enough to make consumers think their eyes might be deceiving them, but manufacturers definitely are shrinking everything from cereal to mayonnaise and even toilet paper.
Shrinking Toilet Tissue Rolls, Skinnier Cereal Boxes and False Bottoms
Take toilet paper, for example. For years, consumers bought a 1,000-sheet roll of Scott's toilet tissue with each of those tiny little square sheets measuring 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. Now, consumers can still by a 1,000-sheet roll, but those sheets are skinnier.
"We've heard every excuse in the book," Marks said. "There's no bound to what manufacturers will do."A little paper trimmed off the sides of each sheet means that a four roll pack has 42 square feet less of paper.
Toilet paper isn't the only thing getting skinnier. Cereal makers are putting less cereal in boxes, but you might not be able to tell. The boxes are thinner so they appear full when you open them.
Skinnier boxes and thinner sheets are among many tricks, Marks said.
Another trick to look out for is false bottoms.
"Look at things like peanut butter jars," Marks said. "You'll often see a jar that has the same dimensions, the height's the same, the diameter's the same, but what you might not notice is that ... you can stick your finger up the bottom of the jar because it's been rounded to hide it's holding less."
Packaging Trick: 'Slack-Fill'
Next, give that bag of chips in your pantry a look. If it seems like your bag of chips is disappearing faster than normal, it probably is.
Walletpop.com, a consumer finance website, reported that Frito-Lay has cut the number of chips in its bags across its product line. Some formerly 12-ounce bags of Lay's or Doritos are now 10 ounces. The bag looks the same but feels a little lighter.
Something else that feels a little lighter is that carton of Tropicana orange juice. ABC News bought a 64-ounce carton, but when we poured the juice out, there was actually only 54 ounces of liquid.
Consumer experts have a name for what manufacturers are doing. It's called "slack fill" when there is over-packaging, meaning that the volume of product in the container doesn't actually match the container's capacity.