Author Topic: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging  (Read 18643 times)

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Online Pandora

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Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« on: March 30, 2011, 02:05:18 PM »
Quote
Chips are disappearing from bags, candy from boxes and vegetables from cans.

As an expected increase in the cost of raw materials looms for late summer, consumers are beginning to encounter shrinking food packages.

With unemployment still high, companies in recent months have tried to camouflage price increases by selling their products in tiny and tinier packages. So far, the changes are most visible at the grocery store, where shoppers are paying the same amount, but getting less.

For Lisa Stauber, stretching her budget to feed her nine children in Houston often requires careful monitoring at the store. Recently, when she cooked her usual three boxes of pasta for a big family dinner, she was surprised by a smaller yield, and she began to suspect something was up.

“Whole wheat pasta had gone from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces,” she said. “I bought three boxes and it wasn’t enough — that was a little embarrassing. I bought the same amount I always buy, I just didn’t realize it, because who reads the sizes all the time?”

Ms. Stauber, 33, said she began inspecting her other purchases, aisle by aisle. Many canned vegetables dropped to 13 or 14 ounces from 16; boxes of baby wipes went to 72 from 80; and sugar was stacked in 4-pound, not 5-pound, bags, she said.

'It's sneaky'

Five or so years ago, Ms. Stauber bought 16-ounce cans of corn. Then they were 15.5 ounces, then 14.5 ounces, and the size is still dropping. “The first time I’ve ever seen an 11-ounce can of corn at the store was about three weeks ago, and I was just floored,” she said. “It’s sneaky, because they figure people won’t know.”

In every economic downturn in the last few decades, companies have reduced the size of some products, disguising price increases and avoiding comparisons on same-size packages, before and after an increase. Each time, the marketing campaigns are coy; this time, the smaller versions are “greener” (packages good for the environment) or more “portable” (little carry bags for the takeout lifestyle) or “healthier” (fewer calories).

Where companies cannot change sizes — as in clothing or appliances — they have warned that prices will be going up, as the costs of cotton, energy, grain and other raw materials are rising.

“Consumers are generally more sensitive to changes in prices than to changes in quantity,” John T. Gourville, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School, said. “And companies try to do it in such a way that you don’t notice, maybe keeping the height and width the same, but changing the depth so the silhouette of the package on the shelf looks the same. Or sometimes they add more air to the chips bag or a scoop in the bottom of the peanut butter jar so it looks the same size.”

Thomas J. Alexander, a finance professor at Northwood University, said that businesses had little choice these days when faced with increases in the costs of their raw goods. “Companies only have pricing power when wages are also increasing, and we’re not seeing that right now because of the high unemployment,” he said.
Story: Higher clothing prices the latest fashion trend

Most companies reduce products quietly, hoping consumers are not reading labels too closely.

But the downsizing keeps occurring. A can of Chicken of the Sea albacore tuna is now packed at 5 ounces, instead of the 6-ounce version still on some shelves, and in some cases, the 5-ounce can costs more than the larger one. Bags of Doritos, Tostitos and Fritos now hold 20 percent fewer chips than in 2009, though a spokesman said those extra chips were just a “limited time” offer.

New containers, terrific advantages?
Trying to keep customers from feeling cheated, some companies are introducing new containers that, they say, have terrific advantages — and just happen to contain less product.

Kraft is introducing “Fresh Stacks” packages for its Nabisco Premium saltines and Honey Maid graham crackers.

Each has about 15 percent fewer crackers than the standard boxes, but the price has not changed. Kraft says that because the Fresh Stacks include more sleeves of crackers, they are more portable and “the packaging format offers the benefit of added freshness,” said Basil T. Maglaris, a Kraft spokesman, in an e-mail.

And Procter & Gamble is expanding its “Future Friendly” products, which it promotes as using at least 15 percent less energy, water or packaging than the standard ones.

“They are more environmentally friendly, that’s true — but they’re also smaller,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner for retail systems research at Focus.com, an online specialist network. “They announce it as great new packaging, and in fact what it is is smaller packaging, smaller amounts of the product,” she said.

Or marketers design a new shape and size altogether, complicating any effort to comparison shop.

The unwrapped Reese’s Minis, which were introduced in February, are smaller than the foil-wrapped Miniatures. They are also more expensive — $0.57 an ounce at FreshDirect, versus $0.37 an ounce for the individually wrapped.

At H. J. Heinz, prices on ketchup, condiments, sauces and Ore-Ida products have already gone up, and the company is selling smaller-than-usual versions of condiments, like 5-ounce bottles of items like Heinz 57 Sauce sold at places like Dollar General.

“I have never regretted raising prices in the face of significant cost pressures, since we can always course-correct if the outcome is not as we expected,” Heinz’s chairman and chief executive, William R. Johnson, said last month.

Think small
While companies have long adjusted package sizes to appeal to changing tastes, from supersizes to 100-calorie packs, the recession drove a lot of corporations to think small. The standard size for Edy’s ice cream went from 2 liters to 1.5 in 2008. And Tropicana shifted to a 59-ounce carton rather than a 64-ounce one last year, after the cost of oranges rose.

With prices for energy and for raw materials like corn, cotton and sugar creeping up and expected to surge later this year, companies are barely bothering to cover up the shrinking packs.

“Typically, the product manufacturers are doing this slightly ahead of the perceived inflationary issues,” Ms. Rosenblum said. “Lately, it hasn’t been subtle — I mean, they’ve been shrinking by noticeable amounts.”

That can work to a company’s benefit. In the culture of thinness, smaller may be a selling point. It lets retailers honestly claim, for example, that a snack package contains fewer calories — without having to change the ingredients a smidge.

“For indulgences like ice cream, chocolate and potato chips, consumers may say ‘I don’t mind getting a little bit less because I shouldn’t be consuming so much anyway,’ ” said Professor Gourville. “That’s a harder argument to make with something like diapers or orange juice.”

But even while companies blame the recession for smaller packages, they rarely increase sizes in good times, he said.

He traced the shrinking package trends to the late 1980s, when companies like Chock full o’ Nuts downsized the one-pound tin of ground coffee to 13 ounces. That shocked consumers, for whom a pound of coffee had been as standard a purchase unit as a dozen eggs or a six-pack of beer, he said.

Once the economy rebounds, he said, a new “jumbo” size product typically emerges, at an even higher cost per ounce. Then the gradual shrinking process of all package sizes begins anew, he said.

“It’s a continuous cycle, where at some point the smallest package offered becomes so small that perhaps they’re phased out and replaced by the medium-size package, which has been shrunk down,” he said.

This article, Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags, first appeared in The New York Times.

Copyright © 2010 The New York Times

Unh hunh.  The no-self-discipline figger they're being done "a favor"?  Anybody else buying that?

As for the rest, I've definitely noticed.  It's been going on with paper products for some time now; the damn paper-towel roll falls out of the under-counter holder unlike the time when it was a struggle to get the big, fat one on there.

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Offline LadyVirginia

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2011, 02:45:02 PM »
I noticed this with flour and sugar years ago and it's annoying.  Used to able to get 5 lb bags of apples, now at my store here they're all 3 lb. The pasta I buy is still 16 oz. thankfully since we use a lot of that.

On the other hand, I tend to buy some stuff in bulk and those things are still the same size.

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2011, 02:58:47 PM »
Funny, the example they use of tuna is something I noticed a while back. Now a can barely makes two sandwiches.
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Offline Glock32

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2011, 04:15:37 PM »
I've been noticing this trend for a while too, but it has definitely accelerated. In addition to the reduced volume, I've noticed some individual items are simply smaller than they used to be. Two of my favorite junk foods - Wise Cheese Doodles and Sweet 16 donuts - have both shrunk noticeably.

I just always think of Chairman Zero, copping his best Mussolini impression, staring blankly into the camera so as to dazzle us with how effortlessly he contemplates, opined: "Under my administration, the price of electricity would necessarily skyrocket."

These a-holes are actively trying to marginalize our country, and I am tired of conservatives who think it is not genteel to acknowledge this obvious fact.
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Online John Florida

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2011, 05:23:00 PM »
Ica scream is the one that pisses me off. It's hard to fing a true half gallon.Pasta you have to watch because the whole wheat stuff is only 13 oz in some brands.
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Offline LadyVirginia

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2011, 05:30:57 PM »
Ica scream is the one that pisses me off. It's hard to fing a true half gallon.Pasta you have to watch because the whole wheat stuff is only 13 oz in some brands.


Yeah, the ice cream got smaller and price went up. 

I bought a box of crackers the other day and my daughter pulled out the bag to open it.  It looked half empty, checked the box for the weight and decided I'm not buying those any more. I've made my own before I guess i can do that again.
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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2011, 05:35:24 PM »
At least when Breyer's shrunk the ice cream volume, there was a discussion from/with them about it.  IIRC, they issued an explanation about volume vs price.
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Offline warpmine

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2011, 10:18:31 PM »
This is what the industry called "down sizing" began over a decade ago. A gallon of juice went to 96 oz and now to 89 oz. Ice Cream went from 64 to 56 to now 48 oz or six pints. Breakfast cereals  went from 14 to 12 to 10.5 to 9 oz which is only slightly larger than the one serving size mini boxes available in restaurants. Cranberry sauce went from 16 to 14 oz. The list goes on and on so what are we going to do abbout it. Me and the Mrs shop long and hard before the purchase and then when the deal arises then it's buy in quantity time. ::rant::
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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2011, 10:27:30 PM »
This is what the industry called "down sizing" began over a decade ago. A gallon of juice went to 96 oz and now to 89 oz. Ice Cream went from 64 to 56 to now 48 oz or six pints. Breakfast cereals  went from 14 to 12 to 10.5 to 9 oz which is only slightly larger than the one serving size mini boxes available in restaurants. Cranberry sauce went from 16 to 14 oz. The list goes on and on so what are we going to do abbout it. Me and the Mrs shop long and hard before the purchase and then when the deal arises then it's buy in quantity time. ::rant::

 That's the way we work it. Buy the basics and the rest is vulture shopping if the deal is there buy a bunch if it's something we'll use. And if there's no deal on what we want and it's not that important we wait it out. And watch the fliers from all the stores and work it out so if were in an area we stop and shop.


  Hell I have 5 cases of tomatoes coming from Conn. that I'll pick up  when were in N.C.(outer banks) on vacation.  cases imported Italian tomatoes for a little less than a buck a can and those get added to the 5 cases I already have for rotation.
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charlesoakwood

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2011, 10:30:40 PM »
... Me and the Mrs shop long and hard before the purchase and then when the deal arises then it's buy in quantity time. ::rant::

If it's not on sale and a good buy it's a no purchase. There's other food in the pantry to eat. If they want me to buy sell it cheap.

Mr. Foodstore send that message to your lobbyist for me, thank you.

He knows I'm telling the truth because he has a record of my purchases.

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2011, 10:36:45 PM »
This is what the industry called "down sizing" began over a decade ago. A gallon of juice went to 96 oz and now to 89 oz. Ice Cream went from 64 to 56 to now 48 oz or six pints. Breakfast cereals  went from 14 to 12 to 10.5 to 9 oz which is only slightly larger than the one serving size mini boxes available in restaurants. Cranberry sauce went from 16 to 14 oz. The list goes on and on so what are we going to do abbout it. Me and the Mrs shop long and hard before the purchase and then when the deal arises then it's buy in quantity time. ::rant::

 That's the way we work it. Buy the basics and the rest is vulture shopping if the deal is there buy a bunch if it's something we'll use. And if there's no deal on what we want and it's not that important we wait it out. And watch the fliers from all the stores and work it out so if were in an area we stop and shop.


  Hell I have 5 cases of tomatoes coming from Conn. that I'll pick up  when were in N.C.(outer banks) on vacation.  cases imported Italian tomatoes for a little less than a buck a can and those get added to the 5 cases I already have for rotation.

What kind of tomatoes were those again?
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Offline Libertas

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2011, 07:33:11 AM »
Didn't this downsizing of packages start eons ago with cereal?  Seems to me they all started going down that line after that.  Same concept with money and precious metals before it...it's all a form of debasement!  Everybody screws us, but is is primarily the governments fault, they started the thievery, others just picked up the fricken example and ran with it!

 ::gaah::
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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2011, 11:19:35 AM »
I vaguely remember some hoohah in the early 70s over the rapidly rising price of coffee; I believe that's when the can-downsizing started with that, and because the price of sugar also became problematic then, I started using a lot of honey.

We've always paid more for sugar than we could be if congress hadn't instituted a protectionist racket for our domestic sugar producers, and there's the reason for a lot of the corn-syrup in food as well.
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Offline Libertas

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2011, 11:23:17 AM »
Ahh yes, forgot about coffee and sugar!  Sugar I should've known, not a coffee drinker, but I do have a sweet tooth!  We have many sugar beet farmers benefiting from this in MN.  I suspect there are many others protected much to the consumers detriment!
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Offline Sectionhand

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2011, 11:47:40 AM »
 I suspect there are many others protected much to the consumers detriment!

You mean like the empty suit we got two years ago and are still paying through the nose for ?

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2011, 07:16:29 PM »
Sugar has become an attractive option again because the diversion of corn to ethanol has impacted the corn syrup production as well.

Wage/price controls and subsidies, they work so so well. /s
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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2011, 08:08:48 AM »
More on inflation...

http://www.cnbc.com/id/42363054

I love this understatement!  -


"Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said Thursday that quantitative easing has boosted inflation expectations more than he had anticipated and that higher short-term rates are possible in late 2011. "

Yeah, The Ben Bernanke will raise rates!  And even if he did, he wouldn't raise them high enough or soon enough to matter!

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charlesoakwood

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2011, 05:51:45 PM »

Price list 2005:

Sugar: 4lbs.                   00.97
Vegetables: 5- 14.5oz .  $1.00
Tomato sauce: 8 oz.      $00.98
Tomatoes: 14.5oz. 5 for  $2.00

Flour: all purpose 1 lb.     $00.88
Wesson oil: 48oz              $  1.88
Ketchup: 24oz DelMonte  $00.88

Bologna: Rath 12oz          $00.88
Hot Dogs: 12oz pkg.   3 for $1.00
Sausage: Smoked 14oz      $00.99


Onions: Yellow  8lbs          $1.00
Tomatoes: 3lbs for             $1.00
Bell Pepper: green     4 for $1.00
Cucumbers:               4 for $1.00



Offline LadyVirginia

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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2011, 11:09:02 PM »
Saturday night, homemade pizza has become the thing at our house (what was I thinking?!I have to fit it among all the other Saturday stuff with the kids)  -- whatever family is around joins in.  I went to get cheese today and discovered many of  the packages were 6 to 7 oz besides the 8 oz. Hummm.

Now that I've been noticing the smaller packaging on stuff it really ticks me off.



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Re: Food inflation kept hidden in smaller packaging
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2011, 05:16:31 AM »
One of the first items in which I noticed the downsizing, years ago, was potato chips.  That 8 oz. bag has now shrunk to around 4 - 4.5 oz. (3.75 oz. for flavored chips).  I recently noticed a game Tropicana Orange Juice plays:  The regular oj is still in 64 oz. cartons.  But the low acid one, which I buy, is now in 59 oz. cartons, as are all the other 'specialized' juices like calcium fortified, etc.  The cartons look so similar in size that it is a deliberate deception.  As mentioned above, another thing I've noticed the downsizing of is canned goods.  I noticed it with the chicken/beef broth cans, down from 16 oz to 14.5 oz.  Pretty soon, the prepacked food items will fit into a child's doll house and look quite normal.

I guess we're all going on a diet, whether we want to or not.