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August 24, 2015

Here We Downsize Again 2015 – Part 3

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:59 am

  In the never ending saga of shrinking products, we sadly bring you a roundup of some of the latest casualties.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Charmin

The company (P&G) eliminated 11 sheets per roll. And that is after lopping of 12 sheets in 2013. To remind everyone, the original Charmin had 600 or 650 single-ply sheets per roll. Mouse Print* asked P&G why they downsized Charmin again. We did not get a response. Special thanks to Richard G., once again, for finding this example.


Coffee is another one of those products that is subject to periodic downsizing, but this change was a big one.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Folgers

Folgers 100% Colombian coffee went from 27.8 ounces down to 24.2 ounces. That is a loss of 30 cups according to the package label. Regular users might have noticed this change because the container is substantially smaller. We asked Smucker why they downsized Folgers. Their PR person responded:

We have observed a shift in the way consumers purchase coffee. Coffee drinkers are coming back to grocery store shelves quicker and are purchasing a larger variety of products across the aisle, all while seeking a lower, more attractive price. A reduced canister size allows us to meet the needs of this evolving coffee consumer.

We responded to that spin asking if the company lowered the wholesale price of the coffee proportionately. The company responded that they lowered the suggested retail price. We asked for both the old and new suggested retail price so we could do the math ourselves, but we did not get the data.

We also checked at a neighborhood Stop & Shop supermarket, and found that both sizes were selling for the same $8.99 on sale.

old price, new price

So here’s a new wrinkle to downsizing: are stores pocketing price drops when a product shrinks instead of passing on the savings (if any) to their customers?

Thanks to Alanna K for spotting this change.


We don’t see a lot of frozen food downsizing, except for ice cream usually, so this was a great catch by Jim S.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Boston Market

No more one pound Boston Market Salisbury Steak, it is now slimmer and trimmer at 14.5 ounces.


Lastly, we have some more downsizing in the chip department, and this is a huge change.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Snyder's

Almost 25% of Synder’s tortilla chips was removed and the $3.49 price stayed the same. The company said they did this to align their products with those of the competition. Thanks again to Richard G. for this find.

• • •

July 13, 2015

With New LED Light Bulbs, Be Careful Watt You Buy

Filed under: Electronics,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:13 am

  Light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are poised to become the bulb of choice for many shoppers. With a recent price drop announced by GE, it is predicted that LED light bulbs might in coming years make compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) obsolete.

But not all LED bulbs are created equal.

Here is a conventional incandescent 60-watt bulb and its CFL equivalent:

60-watt incandescent     cfl

The conventional 60-watt bulb has a life of about 1000 hours, and is rated at 870 lumens (the brightness or amount of light it gives off). But the CFL uses only one-quarter of the electricity (15 watts), lasts eight times longer, and produces slightly more light — 900 lumens — at least initially. That CFL cost a dollar or less.

The new GE bulb, called the GE LED Bright Stik, comes in packs of three at Home Depot for $9.97.

GE Bright Stik

*MOUSE PRINT:

While it uses one-sixth of the electricity of an incandescent, and a third less than the CFL, it only provides 760 lumens of light versus 870-900 lumens for the other two. It also provides a paltry 15,000 hours of life — short for an LED.

It appears that GE has sacrificed longevity and light output for a lower price. Compare the specs of some of its competitors:

*MOUSE PRINT:


60-Watt Equivalent LED Bulb Comparison
chart
“Conventional” refers to bulb shape

As you can see, prices and specs vary widely. The point of this comparison is to show that you shouldn’t assume that all LED bulbs of a certain wattage equivalent provide the same amount of brightness or have the longest possible life.

• • •

June 22, 2015

Here We Downsize Again – 2015 (part two)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:54 am

  The parade of products being downsized continues. It is rare that a downsized product makes headlines, but this one did.

*MOUSE PRINT:

McCormick pepper

Besides dropping one-quarter of the contents, what is irksome here is the old and new containers are identical. Here is a side view with the old on the left and the new one the right:

McCormick side view

As reported in Consumer World last week, a competitor is suing McCormick for unfair practices, saying in part that the new package has been slack-filled. That means there is nonfunctional empty space inside which is illegal under federal law, and possibly some state laws.

Other competitors have noticed, and instead of fighting McCormick’s move, they are joining it.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pepper competitor


Toilet paper continues to be subject to the shrink ray. The latest, Cottonelle, has had each sheet downsized in both width and length.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cottonelle

The good news — there are still 208 sheets on a roll — albeit each sheet is just a little closer to resembling a postage stamp than before. Thanks to Richard G. for this tip.


Lastly, we have bar soap. Many brands of “bath size” soap were originally five ounces. Then they became 4.5 ounces, then 4.25 ounces, and finally four ounces. Sometime, probably last year, Olay reduced the size of its soap from 4.25 ounces to four ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Olay 4.25 oz

Olay 4 oz.

But, every so often after a product is downsized, companies will come out with a “bonus pack” giving you back what they took out. They make you think it is your lucky day.

Olay 5 oz.

Of course, this just puts bath size soap bars right back where they started at — five ounces — but not at the old price.

• • •

May 11, 2015

Keurig Partially Reverses Course

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:57 am

  Last week we told you about Keurig’s new 2.0 coffeemakers that no longer work with old Keurig K-cups and will now only accept their own brand or licensed K-cups with special markings on the top.

Well, it seems the company has had a little change of heart. What prompted them to come to their senses? Their first quarter financial results came in last week and showed that sales of brewers and accessories dropped 23 percent compared to a year ago. During a conference call with investment people last week, their CEO said this:

“We were wrong. We missed — we didn’t — we underestimated it, it’s the easiest way to say it. We underestimated the passion the consumer had for this,” Brian Kelley said. “We heard loud and clear from consumers who really wanted the ‘My K-Cup’ back. We want consumers to be able to bring any brand and bringing the My K-cup back allows that.”

What Mr. Kelley is referring to is a refillable and washable plastic K-cup the company sold that allowed consumers to buy a pound of whatever brand of coffee they wanted, and then just scoop a spoonful into it.

Fine, but that is only one part of the types of cups the company disabled. What about all the other brands of K-cups that don’t have that magic mark on the lid, and all the old K-cups consumers may have in stock?

Their PR manager declined to address those issues when we asked last Friday:

“Plans are still in progress, so I’m not able to provide any additional details at this time.”

The company’s stock is near a 52-week low.

• • •

May 4, 2015

Keurig 2.0 Coffeemakers Have a Built-in Detective

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

  KeurigThe maker of Keurig coffee machines, the ones that use those little (and expensive) K-Cups to brew a single cup of coffee, must have a clever bunch of engineers in their employ. They have created a new machine, the Keurig 2.0, that will only accept their own officially licensed cups that typically cost between 75 and 80 cents each (for about a dime’s worth of coffee). It is also designed to accept different size K-cups to brew either a single cup of coffee or four cups.

Hmmm. Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, inkjet printers. A few years ago, printer manufacturers who got tired of seeing consumers refill their own ink cartridges or buy cheap no-name ones, got the brilliant idea to affix a computer chip to each cartridge refill. That way, the printer could check if an official cartridge was installed or not. If not, the printer would stop working.

Similarly, Keurig presumably didn’t like all the cheaper knockoff little K-Cups on the market, or the reusable and washable cups that one can just add a scoop of grounds to whenever coffee was desired. So, they came up with a machine that would only turn on when a legitimate K-Cup was popped in.

How does Keurig disclose this limitation of their new coffeemakers?

*MOUSE PRINT*: From a footnote in the product description:

Keurig compatibility

What do they mean they can’t guarantee that non-Keurig-2.0 cups will work? They deliberately designed the machine not to work with them.

*MOUSE PRINT*: From their FAQs:

The Keurig® 2.0 brewer will only function with Keurig® brand pods. That means the Keurig® 2.0 brewer will brew both K-Cup® and Vue® pods and the new K-Carafe™ pods. Keurig® brand pods have been specially designed to work with the Keurig 2.0 Brewing Technology® in the Keurig® 2.0 system, which guarantees a perfect brew every time. Look for the Keurig Brewed® seal on your favorite K-Cup® pod and K-Carafe™ pod varieties to ensure a delicious cup every time. Keurig cannot guarantee that pods without the Keurig Brewed logo will work in the Keurig 2.0 brewer.

How exactly does the Keurig 2.0 work? No, they didn’t put a computer chip in every cup. The stories vary, however, of what the actual technology is, depending on whom you ask. Customer service folks at the company say the new coffeemakers have a laser that reads a serial number on the top of the new K-Cups. A company executive says that an infrared light is shined on the foil cover of each K-Cup, and the wavelength of the reflected light is measured to see if it matches a set standard.

What happens if you try to put an unlicensed little cup of grounds in the new machines? You get an error message on a little computer screen, the machine fails to start, and the coffee cops are notified.

*MOUSE PRINT:

oops

Not long after the new system came on the market, hackers went to work to defeat it, and came up with three primary ways to continue using whatever coffee containers you want. The first is removing one wire :

The other ways involved putting a legitimately licensed cap or portion of one over a rogue cup.

It may be obvious, but MrConsumer sees Keurig’s move as anti-competitive and anti-consumer. If the spy inside the machine is really only needed to distinguish between the old one-cup canisters and the new four-cup ones, I’ll forgo the wizardry and happily press a size button.

• • •
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