4 ways your groceries are shrinking

Many Canadians are feeling the effects of rising food prices. But CBC’s Marketplace found dozens of examples of products that have got smaller, often in ways that are not obvious or are difficult for consumers to detect.

Marketplace investigates how manufacturers reduce how much you get

Consumers say 'no increase in prices,' so what is a manufacturer to do? CBC Marketplace investigates 2:06

Think your grocery bags are lighter than they used to be? You’re not the only one.

Noticed rising food costs? Your grocery bill may not have changed much, but you may be getting less food for your money. (CBC)

Many Canadians are feeling the effects of rising food prices. And even if your grocery bill has not gone up, your money may not be going as far as it used to.

CBC’s Marketplace found dozens of examples of products that got smaller, often in ways that are not obvious or are difficult for consumers to detect. While some packages contain less, the price often stays the same.
Some ways that manufacturers shrink products aren't easy for consumers to notice, so shoppers may not always realize they're getting less value than they used to. (Shutterstock)

"Consumers are very, very sensitive to price changes," says Kate White, a professor of marketing and behavioural science at the University of British Columbia.

"There certainly are cases where marketers will want to sort of figure out ‘how much can I change this product, and in what ways can I change this product, without upsetting the consumer?’"

Here are four ways that packages may hold less than they seem.

There are fewer portions

Just because you’re bringing home the bacon, doesn’t mean there’s as much as there used to be.

The package may look the same as it always has, but many packages hold fewer portions. For example, Maple Leaf’s bacon used to come in 500-g packages; last year, it shrunk the amount of salty meat to 375 g: a 25 per cent reduction.
Last year, Maple Leaf Foods shrunk packages of 500 g of bacon to 375 g, a 25 per cent reduction. (CBC)

Manufacturers cite rising costs as part of the reason our sandwiches are shrinking.

Portions are smaller

Some companies include the same number of portions, but they’re smaller.

If you buy a box of Red Rose tea, for example, you’ll get the same number of bags -- and cups of tea. But Marketplace found the 72-bag box got 18 grams lighter earlier this year, meaning there’s less tea in every bag.
New boxes of Red Rose tea contain the same number of bags, but the total weight of the product is 18 g lighter. Unilever says it has reformulated its recipe and bags. (CBC)

Unilever Canada, which makes Red Rose, says it has redesigned its teabag and reformulated its recipe to be richer.

There’s more air in the package

Finding a box or bag that’s half full of air is familiar to many shoppers, and it’s not always easy to tell if you’re getting less product than you used to.
PepsiCo, which owns Lay’s, reduced the weight of chips in a regular bag from 200 g to 180 g last year, a 10 per cent decrease. (CBC)

Lay’s potato chips reduced the amount of chips from 200 g to 180 g last year; a 10 per cent decrease. PepsiCo, which makes Lay’s, says it made the reduction because of rising costs.

Containers no longer contain standard measurements

Want milk? You may be getting less that you assume.
Shoppers expecting to buy a half- or quarter-litre of milk or cream will find many cartons have shrunk slightly. (CBC)

Some products that have long come in standard, familiar sizes — such as dairy cartons of 250 ml and 500 ml -- have been shrinking.

Now those containers are slightly smaller; they run 237ml and 473ml, respectively.

Where have you spotted shrinking products? Tweet your examples to @cbcmarketplace using the hashtag #grocery.

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