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Shrinking Products: Paying the Same for Less

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Big brands are selling smaller products for the same price and one of the many consumers noticing the differences and alerting others is not even old enough to drive.

“I usually feel cheated because I’m paying the same price for less of an item,” Jared Goodman, 13, told ABC News.  “I usually look for labels that say ‘new and improved.’  Because that probably means the product’s been downsized.”

Goodman is part of a growing army of shoppers who are fed up with what’s called “downsizing.”  Consumers from all over the country send their tips to Edgar Dworksy, the founder of ConsumerWorld.org, who posts the findings online.

“[Downsizing is] very common,” Dworksy said.  “It’s been going on for years, but there seems to be a surge right now.”

On ABC News’ trip to the supermarket, 14 products were found that had recently gotten smaller.  Here were some of the changes:

  • Kashi cereal had shrunk, with a slightly taller box actually containing less cereal.
  • Boxes of Scott Tissues contained 12 less tissues.
  • There were 48 fewer chocolate chips in Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
  • Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts contained 52 fewer nuts than it had previously.
  • A can of Maxwell House Coffee used to have enough coffee for 270 cups, now it will make only 240. The one thing that didn’t change was the price, it still costs $9.59.
  • Pillsbury Cake mixes were reduced by three ounces. When made as instructed on the package, the old mix made 24 cupcakes; the new one, which costs the same, barely makes 21.
  • Brawny paper towels new roll had four and a half feet fewer paper towels than one of its older rolls.  And again, the price remained the same.

ABC News confronted the manufacturers about the disparity and they said they downsize products because customers prefer that to higher prices.

“We regularly improve Brawny to compete against other well-known towel brands, and last year made Brawny stronger when wet to better meet consumer needs,” Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Brawny, wrote to ABC News.  “To cover the costs of this improvement, we slightly reduced the sheet count and size, and our consumers’ response to these changes have been positive."

“We aim to provide the right value to our consumers -- and may introduce new package sizes or adjust package sizes of our base products (upward or downward) based on delivering the right value,” Lynne Galia from Kraft Foods Corporate Affairs wrote to ABC News.  Kraft makes Maxwell House coffee as well as Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts.

In the end, the power is with the purchaser: consumers can always switch brands, but it’s important to remember that when one brand shrinks, its competitors often do the same.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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