Shopping: Smaller sizes and higher prices? What’s new!


Personal Finance Editor

A report from Which? published this week revealed that crafty manufacturers are shrinking packet sizes.

Researchers from the consumer group discovered, for instance, that Walkers Crisps are now 2g smaller than they were just over a year ago. Meanwhile, of course, the price has remained the same, at 49p.

That means we’re getting less for our money, 6 per cent less in the case of that particular packet of crisps.

Fans of Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts are also being short-changed. The pack size shrunk in 12 months by 12 per cent - from 215g to 190g - or six sweets’-worth.

It’s not just on food that shoppers are being bamboozled. Pledge furniture polish shrunk by 17 per cent, from 300ml to 250ml. Meanwhile the price remained at £1.30, although a special offer price at one supermarket, Morrisons, climbed from 98p to £1.

Other firms have taken the process even further by reducing pack sizes while increasing prices. Named and shamed for this in the Which? report is Birds Eye.

A pack of the company’s beef burgers now has 25 per cent fewer burgers, having dropped from 16 to 12. But the price has actually climbed 8 per cent from £3.98 to £4.29 in the last year.

Thorntons Mini Caramel Shortcakes also became part of the same dodgy pricing game. They were on sale at £1.40 in Waitrose when the pack contained 12 mini caramel shortcakes but were being sold for £1.50 when it shrank to just 10.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Shrinking products can be an underhand way of raising prices because pack sizes shrink but the prices don’t.”

Underhand? Undoubtedly. The companies involved claim that the changes are driven by increases in the cost of raw materials, transport and staff. Well then why not simply raise prices?

They say that they want to keep products affordable. That’s laudable, but they must be open about that. I’d like to see a producer admit that it has cut the size of a product  to keep the price down.

A sticker with a message such as: “Now 10 per cent smaller but still under £1” would serve to show what has happened. It would be an honest yet still reasonably positive message.

But no firm will do that. Because, at heart, they all know they can carry on hoodwinking us with these slight size wrinkles while maintaining their massive profits. As always!

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