The incredible shrinking groceries

Kevin Yarr
by Kevin yarr, CBCNews.ca

A few months ago I grabbed my regular cheese purchase out of the grocery store fridge and it seemed thin in my hand. It was not my imagination. It was a smaller package, but the price remained the same.

I am not the only one to have noticed this trend.

Actually, it never even occurred to me at the time that this might be a trend, but it did occur to researchers at Consumer Reports, and in their October issue they will detail an assortment of shrinking food products. They released a teaser this week: tuna cans reduced from 200 to 170 grams, coffee from 454 to 326 grams, ice cream from 2 litres to 1.66 litres.

I'm not a fan of paying the same for less but I still see a bright side to this trend, because there is a parallel trend in restaurants - one that's moving in the opposite direction. Portion sizes at restaurants are getting bigger.

The movie Super Size Me killed a marketing promotion at McDonald's, and the Biggie label at Wendy's, but it appears to have done nothing to reduce actual serving sizes. A Biggie soda was 32 ounces; the more innocuously-named large is 42 ounces.

Drive over to Burger King for something appropriate to go with that, the triple whopper with cheese. With 12 ounces of beef, it's enough protein for two days.

Nutritionist Lisa R. Young has written that fast food chains are upping the portions because it's an easy way to give the impression of good value. Food is cheap relative to infrastructure and labour.

I remember when the three-ounce Big Mac was considered a large burger. I get a little sick thinking about what some people are wolfing back in a sitting now.

Personal reactions aside, large restaurant portions (and I don't think fast food chains are the only culprits) are pretty well established to be a contributor to the North American obesity epidemic. Maybe if consumers find they have to put two cans of tuna on a sandwich to make it look like the one at the sandwich bar down the street, they'll start to clue in that perhaps these larger portions aren't the great value they first appear to be.

Seen an incredible shrinking product or an unbelievably-oversized portion? Leave a comment and let us know.