Recently, we got a product notice in the kitchen telling us that the brand of tofu we order was being replaced by another. Both brands were organic, but the new brand was superior by way of packaging, apparently. The new brand, Woodstock Farms, highlighted their colorful packaging in the notice, and emphasized how there was no difference in the manufacturing or the quality of the product. Except, of course, there was. The new brands were an ounce less than the originals. When I found out about the change, I asked the kitchen manager, Tara, if the new packages were smaller. I had noticed previously at supermarkets that Nasoya, a popular brand, had just changed their packaging to look more gourmet, more classy, and took the opportunity to sell less of their product for a little more money. They went from $1.89 for 15 oz. to $2.19 for 14 oz. at my local supermarket. I stopped buying Nasoya, and learned that Trader Joe’s has a private label 15 oz. for $1.19. Anyway, at the kitchen, Tara said that nothing on the flyer indicated that the new packaging contained less. We had to look at the tiny images of the packages on the notice to see that the new ones, indeed, had less than the original. This has been going on for years, of course. Products like coffee and ice cream, which traditionally had been sold by the pound and half gallon, respectively, had been nudged down years ago, when the products prices shot up. Coffee is now 13 to 14 oz, and ice cream is 1.5 to 1.75 quarts. It’s fine that the manufacturers do this so they can keep the price down, but it often strikes me as tricky. I’m happy that they’re mandated to put the actual amount we’re getting in these things, but I wish consumers were more aware of this. In the past month I noticed a couple of other products shrinking in order to keep the price level the same: * Barilla tomato sauce. Was 26 oz. Changed the packaging to look more gourmet. Now 24 oz. Price $2.99. 8% less product or 8% cost increase, depending on your outlook. * Marcal 6 pack 1000-sheet toilet paper. Packaging changed to reflect 100% recycled paper. Price $3.99. This one was sneaky. Even though each roll is still 1000 sheet, the old package was 750 sq ft, and the new is 675 sq ft. 10% less product. I’ve noticed this trend in juices, too. If the package is cardboard, we’re still getting a full half gallon, but when these same products are in plastic containers, we’re getting around 54 to 56 oz. That’s 13 to 16% less product. Being a savvy consumer is difficult and time-consuming, and I’m sure manufacturers and retailers are expecting that we don’t notice these changes, but as I come across them, I’m going to post them. These things shouldn’t be hidden behind fancy packaging.

4 thoughts on “Less is more

  1. Don’t forgrt Coke and their now “easier to hold bottles” that are half the size and the same price as the old bottles.

  2. It’s the marginalising of consumers, in favor of more ad-revenue, and exposure. it’s everywhere. TV shows are shorter too, and look at magazines. I still read some, but they kinda lack in terms of true substantive content. On a tangent, I wonder how far we can strech a quilt across america, mad up of all those damn reader response cards you get from WIRED?

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