I noticed this a while ago. Apparently lots of people have missed it. But some time in the last several months, groceries started shrinking - a lot.
All sorts of groceries. But I guess it's not surprising that I first noticed that ice cream
had shrunk. Maybe you remember: when you buy ice cream in the supermarket, the usual sizes are a half gallon or a pint. But when I routinely checked the label of a carton of Bryer's ice cream, I was amazed to see that it was only 1.5 quarts - it had been shrunk by a full 25%! And the price
definitely hadn't gone down. I did a little research, and EVERY ice cream manufacturer has magically reduced their ice cream packages from 2 quarts to 1.5!
Incidentally, the package had been re-designed to make it look
bigger than it was; it looked a lot like the old version, but the sides were sloping more. I think that difference caught my attention somehow, which is why I looked at the label. I've also noticed that whereas the cartons were almost always full of ice cream in the past, the ice cream is much looser
now, if that makes any sense. There's consistently more air around the sides.
Lots of other products have silently started shrinking, too.The Consumerist calls it "the grocery shrink ray
Apparently one typical tip-off is when the packaging is redesigned. They may claim that the new package is more environmentally friendly and easier to ship - but the odds are that it also contains 10% or so less product. In some cases, the price for the new package is actually higher
than the old, more generous one! But usually it's just the same. Chips, juice, toilet paper...anything which isn't sold by a unit of weight or volume is subject to shrinkage. They can't pull this stunt with gallons of milk or with store-packaged meat, since that's sold by the pound. But in some cases, larger packages are being replaced with subtly smaller ones. For example, the Jimmy Dean sausage roll which was normally 16 oz. is now 12 oz.
Obviously manufacturers are counting on the vast majority of consumers being too stupid or apathetic to notice the change. That's a bet they'll probably win. The question is, how far can they push this particular technique before consumers notice and get angry? My guess is that they're studying this issue carefully, and that before they reduce packages to the point that people notice, they'll do a price hike - probably en masse
, so they can all claim that it's a necessary response to the economy.
Incidentally, I don't dispute their right to pass on increased production costs to their customers (because I know that at least one person on my flist will make that very point). What I object to is this sleazy, underhanded repackaging scheme. A half-gallon of ice cream has been just that for decades. Tricking people into thinking they're buying a half-gallon when they're not is simply unethical.
Oh, it's also worth pointing out that these changes also screw up recipes. Many recipes call for a certain standard amount of an ingredient, such as a 6-oz. can of tomatoes (or something; I'm just making up the numbers, okay?). And now that no package exists in that size, the cook is faced with either buying TWO packages and wasting part of one, or trying to reduce the rest of the recipe - which can be difficult, since the amount of reduction isn't always easy to translate into other sizes (i.e. it may be 3 out of 14 oz., for example).
I also read over on the Consumerist that milk is often turning out to be sour as soon as it's bought, or very soon thereafter - this is apparently a lot more common than it used to be. That may be because manufacturers are selling milk that they would normally have thrown away. Or perhaps milk-truck drivers are turning off their refrigeration to save gas. Apparently this hasn't been a problem with organic milk, although much of this is anecdotal. I wouldn't have notice that particular
problem anyway, since we always buy our milk straight from the nearby Wright's Dairy Farm. Their milk isn't trucked anywhere