Paying full price for downsized products

Consumer Specialist Ric Romero teamed up with Consumer Reports to find out what manufacturers will say about downsizing.

Whether it is ice cream, orange juice, pet food or peanut butter, some manufacturers are downsizing.

"It's where they shrink the product and generally hold the line on price," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports.

Consumer specialists compared two Froot Loops cereal boxes, for example. The two looked similar in size. However, one was 19.7 ounces, while the new box was 17 ounces.

When comparing juice, experts found the old version of Tropicana orange juice was 96 ounces. The new one was 89 ounces.

Hershey's has a new special dark chocolate "Giant Bar" that weighs in at 6.8 ounces. However, the previous version was 8 ounces, and was not marked "giant."

"Companies use a lot of different rationales as to why they downsize packages. Usually, in the case of the companies we spoke with, the primary reason was the fact that energy costs have gone up, raw ingredients and materials have gone up. But a couple of companies gave us some interesting answers," said Marks.

Tropicana told the consumer team they had made the container smaller to create a better plastic bottle. They said the new bottle "poured easier with less spillage and less gurgling."

Some experts say there are ways around product downsizing.

"Manufacturers may not always downsize every package in their product line, but only select sizes. So unit pricing will give you an idea of what you're paying less for," said Marks.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart just surveyed shoppers about downsizing. It turns out 75 percent of those surveyed said they were aware of the practice and think it is sneaky. Seventy-one percent thought the main reason for downsizing was to hide price hikes from consumers.


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