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June 9, 2014

To Increase Profits, Product Makers Just Add Water!

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:49 am

  We all know that product downsizing occurs when some amount of the product has been removed from the package inconspicuously, but the price remains the same.

A close relative to product downsizing is what we call “product dilution.” The product is formulated or reformulated in such a manner as to make it less expensive to manufacture.

Exhibit A:

A classic example is Tropicana’s “Trop50” drink that boasts 50% less sugar and calories. How did they accomplish this? It only has 42% juice and the rest is water and flavoring.

Exhibit B:

And if you have poked around the meat counter lately, some whole chickens and boneless chicken breasts have been plumped up with up to 15% of “broth” (aka water). [Note how “fifteen percent” is spelled out to make it less obvious at a glance.]


chicken broth

Exhibit C:

Procter & Gamble recently has been “diluting” some of their products to come out with a new “value” line. Witness the introduction of Charmin Basic and Bounty Basic, a cheaper single-ply product compared to regular two-ply rolls. And then there is the new Tide detergent in the yellow bottle. Priced less expensively than traditional Tide and presumably with a less effective formulation, it is designed to complete with other bargain detergents.

Exhibit D:


DawnAnd P&G’s newest product, Dawn “Simply Clean” is just beginning to hit store shelves. It caught regular Mouse Print* reader Tim B. unaware, who bought a bottle of the new stuff thinking it was regular Dawn Ultra.

“I didn’t notice the label until I went to use the soap. Very watery and very runny. As expected, it does not perform as well as the Ultra so I have to use more. My problem when I shop, is I expect things to remain the same. And these companies continue to get me. Gwaltney bacon, I purchased a pack of that only to discover I got 12 ounces instead of 16. Anitfreeze that was “pre-diluted” which means I bought a half gallon of water and half gallon of anti-freeze. Packaged meat with “water added”. And now “Non-Concentrated ” Dawn, AKA more water added. I thought the “Simply Clean” was just a new slogan.

Sad part is years ago, companies would improve their product to get you to buy it. Now it seems everything is going the other direction, to make cheaper products.”

Our intrepid consumer is a technician by trade, so he decided to test both old and new Dawn to try to determine how much the new non-concentrated Dawn had been watered down. The old one was thick and gloppy, while the new one was much thinner. In fact, he says the new product only has one-third the “solids” as the old one.

So how do you feel about “product dilution?” Sound off in the comments.


• • •

May 19, 2014

Those Devilish Keebler Elves Downsize Some Cookies

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

 Welcome ABC World News viewers!

Leave it to the Keebler elves to come up with a devilishly clever way to downsize their chocolate chip cookies so that it might go unnoticed by shoppers.

Exhibit A:


The above picture was the traditional package of Chips Deluxe cookies until last fall. Then the company decided to refresh the look of their entire line and came out with new yellow packaging.

Exhibit B:


Savvy shoppers know when they see “new and improved” or “new look” on a package that could be a clue that the product has been downsized. In this case, however, Keebler kept the net weight of Chips Deluxe cookies the same — 13.3 ounces.

Then, not long thereafter, the company decided to downsize a few of their cookie varieties as inconspicuously as possible.

Exhibit C:



Those clever elves took out two to three cookies from each package, reducing the contents from 13.3 ounces to 11.6 ounces, but retaining the same “New Look” packaging. Even the savviest of shoppers who checked the package when they first introduced the “New Look” packaging would ever think to check again the next time they bought the item to see if it had been subsequently downsized.

Mouse Print* asked Kellogg’s, the maker of Keebler cookies, some very pointed questions about why they downsized, and whether they realized that maintaining the banner “New Look, Same Great Taste” after they downsized the product could easily mislead consumers into believing that only the packaging changed.

The company responded:

“As commodity prices and other costs increase, Kellogg occasionally adjusts package sizes and wholesale prices, and we offer a range of product sizes to meet differing consumer preferences.” —Keebler Media Hotline

Inconspicuously downsizing a product continues to be a sneaky way to pass on a price increase in the hopes that most shoppers won’t notice.


• • •

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.



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.



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.



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:


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.


[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.



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.


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.


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.”


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.


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?


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] .


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