5 On Your Side

Product shrinkage means less product for more money

Posted November 11, 2015

Starkist Tuna just settled a class-action lawsuit that accused the company of having less tuna in cans than advertised. The company denied any wrongdoing, but it appears as though less is more with a lot of different products.

Many pints of ice cream are now just 14 ounces, while ice cream sandwiches, which used to come 12 to a box, now contain 10 for the same price. Plenty of products have apparently been dieting, leaving consumers feeling as though they’re being duped.

“Companies often blame downsizing on rising labor and ingredient costs, but it’s a way for them to raise prices, too, without being noticed,” said Tod Marks of Consumer Reports.

Some store brands of juice still have the traditional 64 ounces, but many of the big name brands are now only 59 ounces. Jars of peanut butter that appear to be the same size range from 18 ounces down to 16, which is a difference of roughly two servings.

Product shrinkage is not just limited to food. All liquid laundry detergent is 50 ounces, but the look-alike bottle of All Free Clear is only 46.5 ounces, which means two fewer loads. Ivory soap that is bought in a package of 10 contains 4-ounce bars but the bars of soap in the three-pack package weigh only 3.1 ounces.

The problem is really about perception. For years, many products came in clearly recognizable sizes, such as a pound of coffee or a quart of mayonnaise. These days, consumers need to check labels to see what they’re really getting.

Experts said the best thing for consumers to do is read the fine print on the packaging and pay attention to the unit-price labels on most store shelves.

As for the Starkist Tuna lawsuit, anybody who bought the product between 2009 and 2014 might be able to get free tuna.

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  • Denise Tyler Nov 12, 2015
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    I noticed this recently at Harris Teeter. I've been buying their HT brand frozen green beans for my dog (on a diet) for years. 16 oz bag was usually $.99 - 1.19. 32 oz bag was $1.99 - 2.29.

    Back in September, I started noticing their frozen foods not being restocked. All of them. I asked CS and they said they were switching suppliers.

    When they finally got restocked, lo and behold, they are now 12 oz, not 16 or 28, not 32 AND the prices are higher than what they used to be for the 16/32 oz packages.

    Ugh...