Sneaky Packaging – Subterfuge or Competitive

So, I’m wondering how many of you remember when a pound of bacon was a standard measure of food, 16 oz. or 450 grams, – now it’s one-quarter smaller at 350grams or 11.5 ounces. I dare you to find a big notice anywhere that says your Sunday morning staple of Bacon and eggs has been reduced. I’m so used to being ripped off by the supermarket that when I went to my butcher and asked for a pound of bacon I couldn’t believe my eyes to see the real thing. I wonder if producers will mess with chickens to make smaller eggs. 

Reducing portion or package sizes may seem trivial to some people while others cry foul. There is a method afoot for companies to reduce product sizes of everything from bacon to Pepsi. As far as I can tell there has been a concerted effort to reduce sizes since 2011. 

The Pepsi Sleek Mini Can is on sale in my corner store. I always wondered who made the regular size can a standard at 355ml but with a can containing 222ml, I’m again thinking it’s greed, not demand. Looking at it from the manufacturer’s side, I’m sure the cost of living affects them deeply and takes more and more each day from their bottom line. I’m sure a marketing chief somewhere will claim that reducing food portions also reduces our caloric intake as a lame excuse for cheating us of product. In fact in 2011, consumers were told that smaller sizes were better for the environment and your health. 

Remember as a kid how big chocolate bars were in our little hands but seem very small today? I actually believed for an instant that perhaps it was my bigger adult hands but I took a long hard look at my favorite chocolate bar and found it was almost 20% smaller over the past five years. Of course, the price increased slightly too.

According to the NY Times, product reduction is so widespread and significant that it’s nearly impossible to disguise it. The general consensus is that people get upset for a minute but still buy their Oreo’s anyway because they can’t do anything about it?

Manufacturers want more money and they feel if they raise prices people will revolt so they diminish the size of the product hoping we won’t notice – shame on them. Some even reduce the size and increase the price. Consumers realize costs are increasing but camouflaging price increases through subterfuge doesn’t make us trust these people; as if we ever did. I’ve seen products that have added indentations to the design of the can or bottle that, in effect, reduces the product inside while making the exterior somehow more appealing to the consumer. That’s downright deceitful.

In my research I did find an anomaly, L’Oreal, the hair product people, started to promote a small sachet-size shampoo smaller than the regular size in India to appeal to a less affluent consumer group. India is a huge market for them so it made sense to reduce the package size (and price). They sell them in Canada and the US as convenient travel packs.

CBC’s Marketplace, in Canada, had a contest on a recent television show to find the smallest shrinking products. Ivory BodyWash dropped their product size by 15%. Ivory added ‘new and improved’ to take your eye off the size at the bottom of the bottle. Charmin is short sheeting us by changing our favorite squeezable toilet paper to smaller ‘sheet’ size. Does anyone know the difference between 2 and 3 ply? Even the mainstay of many meals, pasta, has been reduced by 15-20% but they say your GMO wheat enhanced spaghetti is ‘health smart’ in bold print.

I love my potato chips but they have been dropped 15 grams hoping we would not notice the rip off. That’s a lot for a bag of chips we always felt were half air anyways. At least chips were always in bags. Many manufacturers are now putting products in bags because the contents appear larger. Chips Ahoy cookies reduced the size of their bag of cookies from 350 grams to 300 – this is underhanded. What did they do with all those extra chocolate chips?

I love the popcorn scenario. Sure they reduced the size of instant microwave popping corn but now they call them ‘personal’ size portions. So much for sharing popcorn and a movie at home with my honey, I’ll have to wait for her to go to bed to eat my popcorn. The good thing is a pound of butter is still a pound problem is I bought a retro glass butter dish with a lid the other day and my butter won’t fit, they downsized the butter dish, ahghg!

My mom says don’t mess with her tea; well Red Rose tea provides the same size bags per box but dropped 6 fewer bags from the carton trying to make it unnoticeable in the enhanced packaging. Imagine the money Red Rose saves giving us 6 teabags less multiplied by a million or two packages. These tea pirates are making a killing. If they don’t reduce the portion size they reduce the contents that amounts to the same thing. 

For those of us who are business people, we know that the cost of gas (don’t get me going on that price-fixed industry), transportation, labor, taxes, raw materials, etc. make prices rise whether it is a real or a made up excuse. Changing package sizes while hiding the fact is wrong. It is underhanded with the manufacturers hoping consumers will not notice. We do.

The bottom line is sellers of products must be hiring psychologists to market to us hoping we can be fooled into believing we are getting value for our dollar. The truth is; the products we grew up with have no semblance of the products we now consume. They have been modified in look and form, hydrogenated, GMO’d, substituted and are not the products we remember – seriously!

My response? I’m not going to buy into their game. I’ll watch and report on sneaky packaging and let others decide if they are willing to pay more for less. I’m, also, not buying into GMO and massively sugar-based food products, but that’s another article.

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