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April 10, 2017

Here We Downsize Again – 2017 (Part 1)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

In the ever-shrinking world of groceries and toiletries, some big manufacturers continue to think that smaller is better (at least for their bottom line). Herewith, then, are some of the latest products to have been downsized.

Example 1:

Wayne L. was shocked recently when he checked out the display of Crest Pro-Health at his local store and found that P&G had again shrunk the size of their tubes.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Crest Pro-Health

Unbelievably, over the past couple of years, the tubes have gone from a full six ounces to 5.1 ounces last year, and now a measly 4.6 ounces. At this rate, they will be travel-size before you know it.

We asked P&G why the product was being downsized again.

Our first priority is to provide our trusted, quality products for you at good value. In these times where everyday costs are rising, the cost of the raw materials that go into our toothpaste has also risen. Although we have tried wherever possible to absorb and manage these, in some instances, we have had to reflect this in our cost-pricing to retailers. — P&G spokesperson


Example 2:

A Massachusetts consumer, Rosemarie L., was incensed that Coke 8-packs had become Coke 6-packs at her local supermarket and were selling for the same price as before. We contacted Coca-Cola to find out what was going on, and whether these Coke mini-cans had really been downsized but the price kept the same.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Coke

“We are in the process of phasing out mini cans in eight packs. We are shifting to six packs and 10 packs. … The suggested retail price of six packs is less than the suggested retail price of eight packs.” — Coca-Cola spokesperson

So, this may be a little more about Coke changing its product mix than downsizing in the conventional sense. While this consumer’s store chose to keep the price the same for both sizes, a check at Target revealed the 8-pack selling for $3.69 but the new 6-pack was only $2.99.


Example 3:

When the chips are down, that means the ever-changing cans of Pringles are probably down too (after being upsized a while back).

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pringles

Mike K., who kindly submitted this picture to Mouse Print*, says he “noticed that the Pringles shelf looked like a topographical map with all of the different new and old cans.” Each can lost about half an ounce of chips, going from 5.96 to 5.5 ounces.


Example 4:

Finally this round, one of the original products to ever be downsized — coffee — is at it again. This time, it is Maxwell House’s turn, following a similar move by Folgers a couple of years ago.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Maxwell House

The old 28-ounce size is now 24.5 ounces. This amounts to a loss of 30 cups of coffee per can with the total going from 240 cups down to just 210 cups. It is noteworthy to mention that five years ago when Maxwell House last downsized, each can of a similar variety produced 270 cups of coffee from a can weighing over two pounds. (See picture.)




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March 6, 2017

Movie Candy — More Box Than Candy

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

Have you seen the price of movie candy lately? In Boston, AMC Theatres charges $3.99 to $4.49 for a box with just 3.5 to 5.5 ounces of candy inside. Yikes.

These boxes have come under scrutiny lately because of several class action lawsuits against major manufacturers. Shoppers allege they were misled by the packaging which makes it look like there is a lot of candy in the box, but in reality, most are only about half full.

Here is a story about it by Jeff Rossen, NBC’s investigative reporter on the Today Show (with MrConsumer at the end).

Rossen Reports Movie Candy
Click to watch video

When manufacturers over-package a product creating empty space inside that has no function other than to make consumers think they are getting more for their money than they really are, that is called slack fill, and it’s illegal under federal law (and the law of some states). It is not illegal if the empty space is needed because of settling of the product, or because the machinery to fill the package requires it, or the space is needed to protect the product (such as the cushioning pillow created by large potato chips bags).

Here’s another example not part of a lawsuit. This is a huge box of Bazooka bubble gum — maybe six or seven inches long and over an inch thick. Sure looks like it has a lot of gum inside.

Bazooka

But when you stack up the contents, you get much less than meets the eye given the size of the box.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Bazooka contents

Although the net weight is on the package, and fine print on the back says there are “about 19” pieces inside (there were 18 in this box), the FDA and courts have ruled that having the net weight on the package is an independent requirement separate from the requirement not to use deceptive packaging.




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December 19, 2016

Here We Downsize Again – 2016 (Part 3)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:46 am

Our next issue will be January 2

We wrap up the year with more items that have shrunk in size — many of them spotted by eagle-eyed Mouse Print* readers.

Happening right now in a dairy case near you is the downsizing of flavored varieties of Philadelphia whipped cream cheese. The 16 ounce containers are going down to 15.5 ounces, and the 8 ounce ones are slimming down by half an ounce as well and that’s a greater percentage loss. Thanks to Richard G. for spotting this one.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Philadelphia cream cheese


There are many categories of grocery items that are serial shrinkers like toilet paper, potato chips, and ice cream. Well, we have a new candidate today – frankfurters. And in particular, Mr. Consumer’s favorite dog (until now), Nathan’s.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nathan's frankfurters

These no longer “bigger than a bun” frankfurters went from a full pound down to 14 ounces in 2012. And just recently, they knocked another two ounces off, bringing Nathan’s down to just 12 ounces. This is some way to celebrate their 100th anniversary. The regular short ones, incidentally, are still 14 ounces.


A favorite of moviegoers is a box of Junior Mints. In the past few months, however, the packages have been downsized by 12-1/2 percent to three and half ounces from four.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Junior Mints


Following a downsizing by Colgate a few months earlier, could other brands be far behind? Sure enough, Crest Pro Health shrunk from 6 ounces to 5.1 ounces. (Thanks for the tip, Wayne L.)

*MOUSE PRINT:

Crest Pro Health

 
Even dollar store, old time favorite Pepsodent was downsized. (Thanks for the tip, Richard G.)
 

Pepsodent




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May 16, 2016

Here We Downsize Again — 2016 (part 2)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:04 am

Thanks to the eagle eyes of regular Mouse Print* reader Richard G., we have another round of products that manufacturers have taken the shrink ray to.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cottonelle

Toilet paper is one of the categories of items that has been downsized for decades. Cottonelle continues to shrink in size, this time going from 418 sheets on a mega roll to 380 sheets. Double rolls have also downsized from 209 sheets per roll to 190.

Deceptively, in the upper right corner of the new smaller package, the company claims that you are getting 20% more sheets.

Cottonelle 20%

Huh? Only in marketing can getting less per roll mean you’re getting more. The *MOUSE PRINT finishes the claim: “compared to Charmin Ultra Strong mega rolls.”

Incidentally, it was just about a year ago that this same brand sliced off fractions of a inch from both the length of width of each sheet, as we reported.


*MOUSE PRINT:

Colgate

Colgate is just in the process now of reducing the size of its largest tube of regular toothpaste from 8.2 ounces to 8.0 ounces. And just like the makers of Cottonelle, they are trying to create a false impression that the new box is giving you more. How in the world are you getting 33% more?

*MOUSE PRINT:

vs. 6 oz size

Thanks for the mathematics lesson tucked on the back of the box, Colgate.


Lastly, Scott K.’s co-workers in Canada couldn’t understand why their instant coffee was running out much faster than usual.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Nescafe

The reason: there is 15% less coffee in each jar of Nescafe now.




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April 4, 2016

Starbucks Accused of Underfilling Lattes

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

Starbucks cupA few weeks ago, two consumers sued Starbucks alleging that the company routinely and deliberately underfills their cups of latte.

The lawyers contend that in 2009 the company adopted a money-saving move that would force Starbucks’ baristas to make lattes in a uniform way. They were required to use a pitcher that contained “fill to” lines like those on detergent bottle caps so they would know how much milk to add. They then had to add a certain number of one-ounce shots of espresso, a certain number of pumps of flavored syrup, and 1/4-inch of foam on top, leaving 1/4-inch of space.

Starbucks recipe

The lawyers say that based on this recipe plus the actual physical capacity of Starbucks’ cups, their lattes can’t possibly be the full size they claim.

What are Starbucks’ size claims?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Starbucks menu

Starbucks represents that their hot lattes are 12, 16, and 20 fluid ounces in tiny letters right on their menu boards. When the lawyers tested the capacity of their cups, they found that only when filling them all the way to the brim did they hold the claimed capacity. But since they interpret the official instructions as requiring that 1/4-inch of space be left at the top, right off the bat all their lattes are short-weighted, they contend. Note: a test by Mouse Print* of a 16-ounce Starbucks cup reveals that it actually holds about 17 ounces when filled to the brim.

Even if the cups are only one-ounce short when served, multiply that by millions of cups sold a week, and that means huge savings for the company and a huge loss in the aggregate for customers. But the lawyers offer more proof based on actual store inspections. They say they “purchased and measured Starbucks Lattes at different stores, in different states, in different sizes, and in different flavors. However, each Latte was underfilled by approximately 25%.”

On the face of it, that is a rather shocking allegation.

Yet, in the very next paragraph of the complaint, the lawyers present conflicting evidence when they recount what happened when they followed the company recipe using one of the Starbucks pitchers that they had obtained.

*MOUSE PRINT:

For a [16-oz] Grande beverage, the “fill to” line comprises less than 12 fluid ounces of milk. After adding 2 shots of espresso (2 fluid ounces), the resulting beverage measures less than 14 fluid ounces at most. This falls far short of Starbucks’ “16 fl. oz.” representation.

Haven’t they just contradicted their claim that drinks were all underfilled by about 25% in their tests? In this example, for a 16-oz drink to be 25% short, it would have to be 12 ounces, not the almost 14 ounces they found. And did they really follow the recipe? Where’s the four pumps of flavored syrup? Where’s the foam? If these ingredients were added, what would be the total number of ounces in the cup?

And if cups were all 25% short, wouldn’t consumers across the country have been yelling bloody murder about the practice for years? Well, maybe not, since Starbucks puts an opaque cover on hot lattes and you drink it through a hole on the cover.

Mouse Print* emailed two of the lawyers raising some of these very issues, but we have not yet received a response.

Starbucks has been relatively circumspect in their response to the lawsuit.

“We are aware of the plaintiffs’ claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. We are proud to serve our customers high-quality, handcrafted and customized beverages, and we inform customers of the likelihood of variations.”

We have a sneaking suspicion this case may turn on two points. The first is what is the proper way to measure foam (and maybe the aerated milk) — do you just measure its height/volume and count that as part of the total fluid ounces, or do you have to wait until it settles to see how much liquid is actually contained in the foam? According to Handbook 133 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, you have to dissipate the foam, and then you measure the quantity of liquid in the cup.

Secondly, there is an issue related to the syrup, which we won’t detail here. But, according to weights and measures rules, since both flavored and unflavored lattes are represented on the menu board to be a certain number of ounces, they must in fact meet that standard –and not by adding a whole bunch of extra foam to fill the cup.

Look for MrConsumer on the Today Show commenting on Starbucks’ practices:

Starbucks Today Show
Click picture to view video




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