Same price, less product


Does your shopping trolley feel lighter these days even though it’s packed with the usual stuff? Don’t blame inflation – look at the size or volume of the items you’ve chosen.

Canned beans, beer, chocolate bars – they’re smaller than they used to be yet prices haven’t been reduced.

There’s less tomato sauce in a bottle and there are fewer sheets on a roll of kitchen towel. Oh, it’s marked on the packaging but who reads the small print?

It’s the ‘‘sneaky shrinking pack’’ trend, says SA consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

‘‘Instead of increasing the price of a product manufacturers disguise the fact the product has become more expensive by producing the same thing in a slightly smaller pack.

‘‘Of course the downsizing is so subtle few consumers notice,’’ she writes on her blog, Consumer Watch.

‘‘Only when we see a downsized pack on the shelf with a label clearly saying, ‘Now in a smaller pack!’ will I accept the manufacturer wasn’t hoping consumers wouldn’t notice.’’

Consumer activists say people have to become more savvy. Compare the unit prices of various products, Dr Clif Johnston, vice-president of the SA National Consumer Union, says.

What ‘s the price per kilogram or litre, or of each sheet of paper towel on the roll? Carry a calculator (or use the one on your cellphone), he advises.

And try in-store brands – they can be 25 to 30 per cent cheaper and there’s usually little difference in quality compared to big-name brands. Call manufacturers if you’re not happy with the reduced weight of products. If enough people complain they’ll have to take action.

‘‘Consumers should look for the quantity on the label of everything they buy; it must be there,’’ Dr Johnston says. ‘‘But if it’s difficult to find or in very small print you can be sure the supplier is up to something.’’

Read more about it in YOU, 23 June 2011.

Follow YOU on Twitter.

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