Monday, May 4, 2009
7 News Investigations: Size Matters
From cereal to ice cream, some of your favorite staples at the grocery store are shrinking in size but not in price. Tonight, in a special assignment report, Seven's Lynn Martinez uncovers Why Size Matters.
WSVN -- With a family of four to feed, Robyn Jaffee's weekly trip to the grocery store has become outrageously expensive.
Robyn Jaffee: "I'm spending $150, and that's just the bare necessities."
While her grocery bills are getting bigger, she's noticed something else is actually getting smaller.
Robyn Jaffee: "I'm spending a lot more money than I used to, but I'm getting a lot less food, which doesn't make me very happy."
Lynn Martinez: "She's not imagining things. Shoppers are getting less for their money. Many groceries and household staples are actually shrinking, but prices are not."
Ben Popken: "They are using different kinds of packaging, redesigns that further hide the fact that they are giving you less product."
Ben Popken from Consumerist.com has been following the trend and blames it on manufacturers getting hit with rising costs of fuel and raw ingredients.
He claims, instead of shocking consumers with an out-right price increase, companies are quietly reducing the amount of product in their packages.
Ben Popken: "It's basically a sneaky price increase. You have two ways to pass on cost, increase prices or give less, and they've opted for the latter because people aren't going to notice."
At first glance, you probably would not notice, like these tubs of Breyer's vanilla ice cream we recently found at a grocery store. Both cartons look the same, both cost the same, but one tub is 1.75 quarts, the other, slightly smaller at 1.5 quarts.
These bags of Ruffles chips, same story. One is 12 ounces, the other is 11 and a half ounces, and consumers started noticing when they found both sizes of the products on the shelves.
Ben Popken: "When they do a change over from the old product size to the new product size, there might be some of the old products left on the shelf, so you can see one is larger, one is smaller."
We made some phone calls and found other popular products are slimming down. Tropicana Orange Juice containers are shrinking from 96 ounces to 89. The company states it's because they've redesigned the bottle for easier use, but they won't be shrinking the price.
The maker of Hellman's mayonnaise, Country Crock and Skippy peanut butter admit they've cut back on size.
Ben Popken: "They put a dimple in the bottom of the peanut butter jar, so you turn it over, and actually there's indentation."
Kellogg's has reduced boxes of breakfast cereals like Fruit Loops, Cocoa Krispies and Apple Jacks.
Ben Popken: "If people are really ticked off, they can write the manufacture, they can lobby with their elected representatives to ask for more disclosure labeling laws."
The good news, a few companies are listening to consumers and actually increasing their product's size.
Heinz will be selling slightly larger ketchup bottles, and Frito-Lay is adding 20 percent to Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos and Doritos without raising the price.
As for Robyn, she's resorting to some shopping tricks of her own.
Robyn Jaffee: "I am definitely now a coupon girl."
Even Girl Scout cookies like Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos were missing a few cookies this year. The Girl Scouts blame rising costs to make the cookies.