Other manufacturers are also trimming packages, nipping a half-ounce off their bars of soap, narrowing the width of toilet paper and shrinking the size of ice cream containers. Often, the changes are so subtle that they create "the illusion that you are buying the same amount," according Frank Luby, a pricing consultant.
Unilever also changed the shape of its Breyers ice cream containers, reducing the contents to 1.5 quarts from 1.75 quarts. Competitor Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream did the same. Kellogg Co. reduced the weight of many popular cereals an average of 2.4 ounces per box. From the front, the size of the box remains the same; only the depth was reduced. Dial shaved its soap bars to 4 ounces, down from 4.5 ounces, but kept the size and look of its packaging the same.
Many of these changes were made when food commodity and oil prices surged to record highs. It's not clear what the companies will do now that the cost pressures have eased. But according to Luby, they're not likely to go back to the larger sizes, since any backlash is likely to be small. "Many people notice the change but they don't protest and stop buying their favorite brand of cereal," he said. "These brands are strong enough to overcome any backlash."
Consumers are clearly not the only ones trying to squeeze more out of each dollar these days. Food manufacturers have also adopted new ways of reducing their spending and increasing profits.
Does Size Matter?
Unless you are an avid label reader, you may not have realized that many food products are mysteriously shrinking in content – some while increasing the size of the package at the same time! This is a very clever trick, designed to keep you believing that prices have remained the same, or that you’re actually getting a better deal than before.
It’s a phenomenon that consumerist.com has dubbed "the grocery shrink ray.” In addition to some of the examples mentioned above, consumerist.com offers up an ever-growing list of victims exposed to the shrink ray.
Mouseprint.org, a web site devoted to "exposing the strings and catches buried in the fine print," has also caught on, listing examples of products that are now smaller than previously, while price remains the same (or higher).
Oftentimes these changes are small enough that you won’t notice them unless you actually read the labels. A quick glance at mayonnaise jars, for example, may not immediately reveal a size difference, but some are now sold in 30-ounce jars, slightly less than the standard 32-ounce containers without being visibly smaller.
But that’s not the only way you’re getting cheated these days.
How Much of the Content is Actual Food?
Another way food manufacturers are ensuring rising profits is by giving you less food. No, not in terms of size, but in terms of actual food vs. fillers offering little or no nutritional value.
Cheap fillers finding their way into more and more of your packaged foods include soy protein and rice bran.
According to Michael Considine, an executive at the Minnesota grain company CHS Inc., their company has increased the volume of soy protein sales to major food companies by 10 percent just in the last two years.
And another ingredient supplier, NutraCea Inc., has reported an increased demand from food makers for its rice bran. Rice bran is a rice-milling byproduct that, until about 20 years ago, was considered fit only for animal consumption.
Despite the increased use of inexpensive filler materials, most of your processed foods still cost the same, if not more. In fact, data from AC Nielsen show that food companies raised prices across 35 key product categories by 7.3 percent over the 12-week period ending Aug. 9.
Even MORE Ways You’re Being Deceived at the Supermarket
But that’s still not the end of the deceptive tactics employed to keep you from realizing that you’re paying more for less.
Some companies simply dress up their lower-end products to make them seem more appetizing. For example, Cargill Inc. introduced cheaper cuts of meat with fancy-sounding names to supermarkets in July; with names like Maranada steak (flank steak), Marbello steak (skirt steak) and Cordelico sirloin (flap meat), these less tender cuts suddenly have a gourmet flair.
Or how about the case of the suddenly “less effective” baking soda?
Arm & Hammer’s fridge and freezer odor absorber used to state “For best results, change every 3 months.” Now they recommend you switch out your boxes every 30 days. Odd indeed. Arm & Hammer says that their baking soda is 100 percent pure sodium bicarbonate, so one can only assume they haven't changed their recipe to something less odor-absorbing…
How to Avoid Being Deceived in the Supermarket
Most of these alterations can only be spotted in the fine print of the package's ingredient’s list, so as I’ve said on many occasions, you simply must read the labels of the products you buy.
Your best bet however, is to avoid most all processed foods entirely. They’re mostly devoid of nutrients, and loaded with fillers and artificial ingredients. In the end, they end up costing you more, not just in grocery bills, but in future medical expenses as well as they will inevitably destroy your health.
For more information on where and how to purchase truly healthy foods, how to plan healthy meals and save money in the process, please review my Related Articles below.