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March 3, 2014

Tide Detergent Double Downsizes AND Raises Prices

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:03 am

  Procter & Gamble recently decided to make certain varieties of Tide detergent more costly for shoppers. Based on a Wall Street Journal story, the company appears to be raising prices an unheard of three ways simultaneously.

It seems to be passing on a straight list price increase of about 13% to retailers on Tide+ products. But it is also downsizing the product AND apparently diluting it (or making you use more).

Note to readers: We use the words “seems to,” “apparently” and “appears to” because P&G has used “pr-speak” (a.k.a. “spin”) in response to very pointed questions about these changes, as noted at the end of this story.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tide

Tide+ varieties with special scents, fabric softener, etc. are being downsized from 100 ounce jugs to 92 ounces — an 8% drop in contents.

But, not content to raise the price AND put less product in each bottle, you are now going to get fewer loads per bottle than even an 8% drop in contents would work out to.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tide

The traditional 100-ounce bottle was enough for 60 loads according to the package, while the new 92-ounce product only provides 48 loads. So an 8% drop in contents somehow translates into a 20% drop in the number washes you get. Huh?

That sounds like P&G is somehow diluting the product and/or making you use more per load. A look at the back of the bottle reveals the secret.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tide

According to the old bottle, you could get 60 medium-size loads of wash done by filling the cap to line 1. With the new bottle, you are instructed to fill the cap to line 2 for the same medium load and advised you will only get 48 such loads when used this way. Being told we have to use more to get the same job done suggests that the product has been diluted. Alternatively, we are simply being told to use more so we finish up the bottle faster. Medium load users in fact will be using more detergent per load if they follow the manufacturer’s recommendation, but large load users will be using the same amount. (Line 3 in the new cap is where line 2 was in the old.)

We asked P&G to explain these changes with very explicit, pointed questions. Here is how the company responded:

*MOUSE PRINT:

1. Why is Tide downsizing from 100 ounce to 92 ounce jugs?

With the introduction of the new Tide Plus Collection, we have standardized the load sizes across variants (previously there were 5 differing load designations per same size bottle based on the variant) to make shopping the line easier.

2. Are you in fact also raising the price to retailers of Tide+ products? If so, by an average of about how much?

I cannot share our pricing strategies. The significant performance innovation behind this new introduction will carry an average 13% list price increase (on a cost per load basis) but it is important to note that it will be retailers that set the price that consumers pay.

3. How is it that an 8% drop in contents (from 100 ounces to 92 ounces) results in a 20% drop in loads in each bottle (60 loads down to 48)?

This is not a direct correlation; we have upgraded the formulas which has impacted dosing.

4. Is the product the same formula, for Tide+ Febreze, for example, in both the 100 ounce and new 92 ounce size?

We are bringing significant innovation behind the launch of The Tide Plus Collection, providing a one wash wow with even more of the performance and fabric care benefits consumers expect from Tide

5. Have you diluted the product necessitating having to use more, or are you just telling consumers to use more than before for the same size load? (Old instructions: fill to line 1 for medium loads; new instructions: fill to line 2 for medium loads.)

We have updated the usage to align with the formulation and the increasing size of wash loads. — P&G Fabric Care Communications/Corporate Media Relations

The bottom line is this: Getting less detergent in the bottle, having to use more product per load, and paying a higher price at the store means consumers are really being taken to the cleaners.

• • •

October 7, 2013

More Groceries Downsize – 2013 (Part 2)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:29 am

There seems to be a sudden wave of products being downsized after a bit of a lull.

Beloved Charmin toilet paper, which believe it or not had 600 or 650 sheets on a roll when it was first introduced, has now been downsized again for the umteenth time, to just 164 sheets per “double” roll.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Charmin
[Click above to see original labels]

Not only does P&G give you fewer sheets now, they also narrowed each sheet by close to half an inch.

We asked P&G why they downsized Charmin and why they made each sheet narrower. They said they downsized “to provide consumer driven improvements without raising our pricing.” As to why they narrowed each sheet, the company said:

“While the roll width was reduced 3/8ths of an inch, this allowed us to invest in some additional features:

  • Comfort Cushions to enhance the softness of Charmin Ultra Soft—a key consumer need for our Ultra Soft users
  • A more flexible Charmin Ultra Strong—our Ultra Strong users want strength without making the sheet too stiff
  • A reduced roll width to improve how easily it flushes for our most demanding users

We also added some fibers taken away from the sides back into the rest of the sheet to put more fibers where you need them most to get the job done.”

Thanks to Richard G. for tipping us off to how Charmin is squeezing the customer.


Good old Ritz Crackers, which used to come in one pound boxes, and which was downsized a few years ago, has just been downsized again.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ritz

ritz 2013

Thanks to Jamie M. for spotting the Ritz downsizing.


Lastly, for this downsizing roundup, we have Ocean Spray cranberry juice, which forever has come in 64-ounce bottles, but no longer does. They have been shrunk to 60-ounces. The old bottle on the left says “New Look,” which is usually a tip-off to a change in size, but this time it was a false signal. The new bottle also says “New Look,” and the ounces did drop. Go figure.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ocean Spray cranberry juice

How did they do it? When looked at from the side, the top of half of the new bottle has been narrowed. Sneaky. Very sneaky.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Ocean Spray sides

Ocean Spray told Mouse Print* that it downsized some of its products because of rising costs it faced and “rather than raise the price at the point of sale.” As to the phrase “new look” appearing on both the old bottles and new bottles bottles, the company said it began using “new look” in October 2012 to differentiate its 100% juice products from its other product lines. And finally, here is their response to why the four-ounce drop in net contents was done so inconspicuously:

“The realities of the economy and the rising costs of goods mean we like many manufacturers have to make tough decisions about products and pricing. Our number one priority is making sure consumers have access to the product they want at a price point they can afford. The move to downsize our 100% Juice line from 64 oz. to 60 oz. was done in accordance with industry standards and was not concealed in any manner.” — Ocean Spray Spokesperson

Thanks to Lynnie B. for catching the Ocean Spray downsizing.

• • •

September 9, 2013

Product Dilution: Breyers Lightens More Ice Cream

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:34 am

Last year, we reported that Breyers “cheapened” many varieties of their ice cream by reducing the amount of butterfat content to the point where the product could no longer legally be called “ice cream,” but rather had to be renamed “frozen dairy dessert.”

Some stalwart flavors, like MrConsumer’s beloved lactose-free vanilla, remained untouched until now. To MrConsumer’s horror and surprise, Breyers quietly converted that ice cream variety to “light ice cream.”

*MOUSE PRINT:

Breyers old - new front
Click to enlarge

In the new packaging, the “All Natural Ice Cream” claim is replaced with the phrase “Quality Since 1866.” Of course, it doesn’t say the same quality. And the words “ice cream” are replaced with “light ice cream.”

What exactly is “light ice cream?” According to FDA rules:

“Light” ice cream contains at least 50% less total fat or 33% fewer calories than the referenced product (the average of leading regional or national brands).

Looking at the nutrition panels of the old Breyers lactose free ice cream and the new one reveals only a minor reduction in calories.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Breyers old-new

The old “ice cream” product had 130 calories and the new “light” one has 110 calories, only 20 fewer calories. It does however have half the fat. And, the federal law says that light ice cream must have EITHER half the fat OR 33% fewer calories.

There is just one problem, though. The front of the package claims very clearly that the new light ice cream has BOTH half the fat and 1/3 fewer calories.

Breyers fat-cals

Clearly, this new lactose free light ice cream does not comply with that representation when compared to their old regular lactose free ice cream. So how do they get away with this claim?

*MOUSE PRINT:

breyer one-third fewer

Tucked away on a side panel is that tiny disclosure. They are not comparing this new light ice cream with THEIR old regular ice cream, but rather with some super premium brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs as well. Those have been thrown in to up the average amount of fat and calories in “full fat” brands, and thus make Breyers’ reduction seem more impressive than it really is. (Haagen Dazs has 250 calories and 17 grams of fat per serving, while Ben & Jerry’s has 230 calories and 14 grams of fat.)

Mouse Print* asked the PR firm representing Breyers three times to explain why they cheapened some of their products, and they provided no response.

If you spot a new example of “product dilution,” please send complete before and after details to edgar [at symbol] mouseprint.org .

• • •

July 15, 2013

Twinkies Upsized, Downsized, Upsized

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:06 am

Lost in the hoopla of Hostess reintroducing Twinkies starting July 15 is how the size of that sweet treat has changed over time.

Here is a short but incomplete photographic history of Twinkies over the past 40 years.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Twinkies 70s
1970s – 13 oz. – $1.19

Twinkies 2001
2001 – 15 oz. – $3.49

Twinkies Jan 12
January 2012 – 15 oz.

Twinkies Dec 12
December 2012 – 13.5 oz. – $4.29

Twinkies July 13
July 2013 – 13.58 oz – $3.99

In a rollercoaster history, Twinkies have gotten bigger, gotten smaller, and gotten slightly bigger again with today’s release. And while the price has more than tripled over four decades, it appears to have just been lowered by 30 cents.

And if you haven’t heard, the shelf-life of the product has been “improved” from 26 days to 45 days.

• • •

July 8, 2013

Choosy Mothers May Stop Choosing Jif

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:21 am

Jif peanut butter, the favorite of “choosy mothers,” may have to change their slogan to “annoyed mothers” if those women read the product’s new label and catch the inconspicuous change.

Five years ago, we reported that Skippy peanut butter was the first major brand to downsize the traditional 18-ounce jar to just 16.3 ounces. Not long thereafter, Peter Pan followed suit. But not Jif. In fact, for a long time, Jif promoted the fact that they did not downsize their brand by proclaiming that Jif was still 18 ounces:

Jif still 18 oz.

That was then. The “still 18 oz.” claim disappeared from their jars over a year ago, but the product remained the full 18 ounces. That is, until now. Beginning to appear on store shelves across the country are Jif’s new jars:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Jif then and now

They shrunk the contents of the product by a full two ounces… but the jars look virtually the same. They didn’t pull the same trick that Skippy used of hollowing out the bottom of the jar. Somehow, though, there is over 10% less in what appears to be about the same size jar. How did they accomplish this seemingly impossible feat?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Jif measured

The new jar on the right actually had its waistline trimmed by one-half an inch. That’s the secret.

For its part, here is how the company explained its decision to downsize Jif:

“We previously announced the conversion of our packaging to 16 oz. jars effective June 1, 2013 based on consumer and retailer feedback. It is important to note that we also decreased the suggested retail price so the cost per ounce remained the same as it was prior to the packaging change. ” — Corporate Communications, J.M. Smucker

Of course, we are sure that shoppers must have just deluged the company with complaints, demanding that the company put less peanut butter in each jar.

Incidentally, we paid only $2.20 for the old, bigger jar, but were charged $3.29 for the new one at the same store on the same register receipt! Both sizes were marked $3.29 originally, but the old one appeared to be clearance priced.

• • •
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