Product downsizing has been a fact of consumer life since the nickel candy bar. Rather than pass on a price increase directly to consumers, many manufacturers simply and inconspicuously make the product a little smaller, while keeping the selling price the same. Effectively, this is a hidden price increase. Historically, paper towels, detergent, candy bars, toilet paper, coffee, and tuna fish have been common items that keep shrinking in count or net weight.
Manufacturers virtually never call the consumer’s attention to the fact that you are getting less for your money. In fact, they often direct the grocery shopper’s attention away from the small net weight statement by proclaiming something new about the product, like a new fragrance or improved formulation.
Tide powder appears to have just downsized the contents of its boxes significantly, while leaving the packages the exact same size.
*MOUSE PRINT: Old box: “87 OZ (5.43 LB)”; New box: “70 OZ (4.37 LB)” [Packages on store shelves July 8, 2006. Click on packages above to read net weight statements. ]
Despite the fact that you are getting over a pound less of product for the same price in the same size box, you still somehow get “40 uses” from each package. Did they make the scoop smaller? Did they fluff up the powder? Did they change the formula? Does it still work as well? Tide customer service responds:
“You are still getting the same number of uses per package of Tide. By removing non-necessary materials in the manufacturing process, we improved the solubility and improved the cleaning performance. The changes we have made are so that less weight can do more. Keep in mind, you aren’t measuring the amount by weight. You are using a volume measurement on the scoop. If you fill the scoop to the lowest fill line (the amount recommended for an average wash load), you will get the number of uses printed on the package.”
Also surprising is that except for the inconspicuous change to the net weight statement in the bottom right-hand corner of the box, the packages are absolutely identical in size, wording, and graphics. Unless you are in the habit of checking the net weight of the product every time you shop, you could easily have been completely unaware that over a pound of Tide had inconspicuously been removed from the box.
The lesson: check the net weight and net count of products you regularly buy so you can spot these sneaky changes.