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January 12, 2022

Huh? Products shrink but prices stay the same

Have you noticed that your favourite brands seem to be shrinking? Well, you’re on to something.

Consumer Reports recently released its findings about several products that have reduced their size by as much as 20 per cent even though their manufacturers continue to charge the same amount of money for their offerings.

"From toothpaste to tuna fish, hot dogs to hand soap, companies have been shaving ounces and inches from packages for years," CR maintains.

Manufacturers are blaming the growing cost of raw ingredients. They say they don't want to pass on price increases – so subtle shrinkage is a handy alternative.

Over at Mouse Print, they've been tracking this downsizing of products on supermarket shelves for some time now. And the list is growing.

Thanks to what the consumer protection site calls the Grocery Shrink Ray, pretty soon you’ll open a carton of a dozen eggs and see there are actually only 11. Here's a current example.

"Manufacturers make subtle changes to the packages but generally keep the price the same because when prices rise, buyers often seek cheaper alternatives. And the bottom line is that consumers are more attuned to changes in price than packaging," CR says.

There's a science to downsizing products, and few have studied it as closely as Harvard’s John Gourville. He studied purchasing patterns for hundreds of ready-to-eat cereals and concluded that consumers are far more sensitive to higher prices than to reduced product size.

To be sure you're getting the best value for your money in an era of shrinkage, check the unit price: it's the number on the shelf tag that says how much the item costs per ounce or pound. That way, it's a no-brainer to calculate whether the larger or smaller item is the better buy.

Have you noticed any shrinkage among your favourite brands? Do you buy anyway, switch, or get on the phone and complain?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...