Shrinking Products

Reporter: David Richardson

These days, products that we buy aren't getting cheaper, but they are getting smaller."It's back to unit pricing. the unit price was what I paid that for that now it's a smaller pack and I'm paying more. how does that work is what the consumers are saying." says Marketing expert, Barry Urquhart.

"There are those who say we are going to pull a fast one. we'll nmake the contents smaller,. we'll make the price the same and we hope to God no-one will notice." Christopher Zinn from CHOICE.But they do and how people are noticing some everyday groceries are getting smaller, lighter, leaner but they're paying more..."Because it's the only way that manufacturers can increase their profits in a duplicitous way for want of a better word." Allen fieglin says.

Allen is a super-shopper and a marketer's worst nightmare; he's kept tabs on grocery sizes and prices. "I think the last time we looked at it they had downsized from 415 grams to 365 grams. They are now down to 360 grams, last time they were $3.65, now they're $3.80.""The retailers are going out there proficiently displaying merchandise in an attractive manner. they're selling the concept but not educating the consumers. in this whole economic imperative the consumers are being left behind and in being left behind they feel as though they are being ripped off." said Barry.Marketing expert, Barry believes retailers and manufacturers are not doing enough to explain to consumers why some things are getting smaller.

Barry: "And when the consumers is not sure there is one thing that they do most of all, they don't buy."

David: "Are they now buying now?"

Barry: "They're not buying and they're feeling aggrieved. They feel exposed, they feel vulnerable, they go home and say the supermarkets are getting increasing profits but I don't know if I am getting better value."

"The manufacturers can always make the argument that look the raw materials have gone up in price so either we put up the price or we shrink the contents." said Christopher. "The point is how transparent it is."The consumer watchdog, CHOICE is keeping a close eye on shrinking products but Christopher Zinn admits manufacturers often have legitimate reasons for cutting content, it's when they don't there's a problem."So when there is some degree of subterfuge, or disguise or sleight of hand that's when for many consumers raises the hairs on the back of their necks and say look it's not fair." Christopher said.

And there's no doubt some products have shrunk, Twisties trademark yellow and red pack dropped from 50g to 45g with no apparent change in price and we checked a few other products for size and price from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In June 2004 a 250g block of chocolate cost $3.30, today the chocolate is sold as 200g for $4.35. A 550gm box of wheat cereal cost $3.19, 5 years ago now the box is 460g and $3.80. Baked beans were sold in 420g tins for $1.19, now a 400g tin costs $1.58. While tea bags in a 180g box sold for $3.60, today 100 teabags make up a 180g box for $4.85.

"Well the consumers are saying I want effectiveness and the retailers are saying 'I'm wanting efficiency'. They're running around trying to work out how to make money and you make money by satisfying customers." Said Barry. Experts predict honesty and unit pricing will force trick pricing to disappear.

"Don't be fooled by the size of the box or the bottle, look at the weight , look at the volume, look at the unit price and pretty quickly you can develop a 6th sense if something has changed and if it has and it's a rip off move to a competitor. That is the best way to send a message to people who are trying to have a lend of you, that it's really not good enough." says Christopher.



Barry Urquhart can be contacted at: