‘Shrink ray’ hits groceries
Has this happened to you? You’re walking down an aisle at the supermarket and you pick up a product you’ve purchased many times before.
Dish detergent, deodorant, a cake mix. It looks the same as it always has, but something just isn’t right.
Look closer. The item you know and love has changed a bit. The package may appear to be the same size, but that bottle, box or carton holds less than it used to.
“Shrinking” groceries are nothing new. Half-gallon cartons of ice cream became 1.75-quart cartons, then 1.5-quart cartons. Cereal boxes seem to be on a continual decline, ounce by ounce. One of my favorite cereals has gone from 12 ounces to 9 ounces. Nine ounces barely lasts a week at our house.
Over the past year, I’ve seen a popular brand of dish detergent drop from 9.5 ounces to 9 ounces. I’ve seen my deodorant go from 2.6 ounces to 1.4 ounces. Incredibly, the deodorant is now 47 percent smaller, but the price stayed the same.
The Consumer Reports’ blog Consumerist.com calls this phenomenon the “grocery shrink ray,” and they’ve documented dozens of instances of it on the site. Many think that shrinking groceries are a new phenomenon, yet there are news articles dating back more than 30 years that document rising production costs and smaller product sizes. One article from 1977 notes that a popular brand of candy bars would be reduced in weight by 12.8 percent, and that the same candy bars already had undergone two previous downsizings that same year.
As manufacturing costs increase, companies can choose to raise prices on an item or reduce the size of the item and keep the price the same. The general belief seems to be that shoppers would rather the price stay the same, even if they’re taking home less product.
There are some items for which I’d rather see the prices slightly increase than see the items downsized. My biggest pet peeve? Cake mixes.
Perhaps you’ve noticed, but nearly every major brand of cake mix got smaller over the past year. For as long as I can remember, boxed cake mixes have contained 18.25 ounces of mix. Now, they contain 15.25 ounces of mix. While I can appreciate, and make, a cake from scratch, I do have several favorite recipes, including a delicious lemon streusel, that require 18.25-ounce cake mix.
If you’re curious about the streusel recipe, and how to upsize the cake mix to 18.25 ounces, visit jill cataldo.com/lemon.
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