Product Downsizing Hides Price Hikes

Shrinking product amount in same size cans, bottles

Your groceries may cost the same at the checkout line but chances are you are taking less food home from the supermarket.

Kim Haynes says he notices it every time he leaves the supermarket.

"Everything I buy, ice cream, crackers, everything went down weight wise," said Haynes.

The practice is called product downsizing. It allows manufacturers to charge the same price for their products while putting less in their boxes, bags and bottles.

"Marketers will often do it this way because it probably doesn't get noticed," said San Diego State University marketing professor George Belch.

Belch says downsizing has been going on for years on the store shelf going back to shrinking amounts inside coffee and tuna cans.

Supermarket storeowner Dirk Stump says manufacturers notify them when there has been a change in packaging, which often means a change in products volume. He says lately it's been apparent in ice cream, cereals, cleaners, detergent and even potato chips.

"Big bag full of air with some chips in it," said Stump. "The bag hasn't changed much but the insides have."

Ice cream that used to be a half-gallon is now 1.5 quarts. Cereals are now sold in weight amounts of 12.9 and 18.2 ounces.

According to a survey by Consumer Reports Magazine, Kraft American Cheese now offers two less cheese slices, and Ivory dish detergent that used to be 30 ounces is now 24 ounces.

Peggy Eldridge isn't happy about it.

"I think it's cheating to be honest with you," she said.

 But few say there is anything illegal about the practice.

"You've got to read the tags; you've got to pay attention to the sizes," said George Belch.

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