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July 30, 2012

Here We Downsize Again – Part 2 (2012)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

As prices for raw ingredients go up, package sizes go down. Here are a few of the latest examples of products which have been downsized.


Maxwell House

The really big container went from 34.5 ounces (270 cups) down to 30.6 ounces (240 cups) — a loss of 30 cups-worth per container. Thanks to Mouse Print* reader Karl K. for the tip.


Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker has downsized many of their cake mixes from the familiar 18.25 ounces to only 15.25 ounces. Funny thing, however, the package still says it makes two eight-inch rounds, but the nutrition label says there are only 10 servings in the new package rather than the old 12. Thanks to Terry for the lead on Betty Crocker.



Old reliable Nathan’s, the best-tasting frankfurter you can buy (says MrConsumer), still gives you eight “bigger than a bun” hot dogs in a package, but each one has gotten skinnier. The pound package is now just 14 ounces.

As with most cases of downsized products, you are paying the same price, but getting less. That is a sneaky way to essentially raise prices.

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  1. I have noticed the smaller size of Nathan’s Hot Dogs. My question is where did you find it for $1.99??? The lowest price in my market is $2.98.

    Edgar replies: Melissa, that package is about two years old, from my freezer. It came from Price Rite supermarket in Massachusetts during a great sale. Price Rite is a limited assortment supermarket like Aldi and Save-a-Lot. (They are a corporate cousin of Shop Rite.)

    Comment by Melissa — July 30, 2012 @ 8:43 am
  2. Regarding the Betty Crocker cake mix size reduction, I suppose they don’t think you’ll notice that your 8 inch rounds are much thinner than before. I probably wouldn’t have noticed, except that I usually make cupcakes rather than cakes from the mix. I’ve noticed that I get at least 2-3 fewer cupcakes now, filling the cups to the same fullness as I have always done. I wish these companies would stop trying to hide price increases by reducing the package size. In this case especially, when I buy a box of mix, I expect to get 24 full-size cupcakes. Since I can’t very well serve shrinking cupcakes, I actually end up having to buy more boxes for the same yield. That’s a major price increase, since it doubles my cost, rather than if they had just raised the box price by 20 or 30 cents to cover their production cost.

    Edgar replies: Eric, the new box says 24 cupcakes, as did the old one. If you still try to make 24, they will be little squatty things.

    Comment by Eric — July 30, 2012 @ 9:19 am
  3. *sigh* More downsizing… Inflation’s a killer these days. I’m honestly getting sick of downsizing, but it’s a fact of life now, as it has been since the 19-teens. The companies can try to put clever spins, they can try new gimmicks, but there’s no escaping it- they’re increasing prices to increase profits. I mean, I’m all for making money, but seriously- is their profit margin that holy that it always has to keep growing? That’s one of the reasons the US dollar’s nowhere near as strong as it once was (I’m referring to the mid-20th century here). These companies aren’t going to go out of business just because they decided not to downsize. I understand how much of their product they produce, but if they have a say, $145 million profit for one quarter. These companies are downsizing, and that results in the American public spending more of their (usually) hard-earned money. And that results in more money in that company, and what does the company do with it? Pay their employees? No. They are already able to do that. Do they give it back to the economy? No. They usually pay their executives fat bonuses. And what do those executives do? They waste it on themselves.

    Greed drives today’s capitalism, in my opinion. That’s not to say that all companies are entirely greedy, but there are those few, and they know who they are. And those few are ruining our economy.

    (Wow, I wrote a got-dang BOOK in this comment.)

    Comment by Xterra — July 30, 2012 @ 9:25 am
  4. At least with the Maxwell House and Betty Crocker, the containers are smaller. Nathan’s packaging may be smaller as well, it is hard to tell from the picture.

    Edgar replies: Cindy, the problem is you almost never see both the old and the new side by side in the store unless you happen to catch it at the moment of the transition. People pick certain size products because they have a rough physical container size in their mind. They know they buy the big can of coffee, and not the one that is the former pound size. They probably do not have a good enough spacial memory to recognize that a half-inch has been lopped off the top.

    Comment by Cindy — July 30, 2012 @ 9:46 am
  5. Xterra, I don’t think it is all just “greedy” companies. Prices of everything go up, just as they have for hundreds of years. Their materials go up, their labor costs go up. They are faced with the choice of either raising the price of their goods or giving you less goods for the money.

    From a marketing standpoint, they have shown that giving you less for your money is more “palatable” so that is what they choose. If they keep the cake mix at the same size, but say charge $2 in instead of $1.50, they will lose sales as people may skip making cakes/cupcakes for that week or month.

    I’ve owned my own business, and believe me, it is cut throat out there (and always has been). It is tough to survive, big or small.

    Not all companies pay their higher ups the kind of money you see on the news, that is mostly reserved for the banking, finance, oil and other industries. Many higher ups do “earn their money” as you say working people do, but many working people also do not work hard to earn their money.

    You get a vote in all of this with your dollar, if you don’t like a companies pricing or tactics then just don’t buy it, there are always alternatives or you can just do without. If you want to fight inflation, higher prices, less for your money, good luck with that as it is just a fact of life (especially when it comes to food).

    Comment by Cindy — July 30, 2012 @ 9:53 am
  6. I started paying attention the the weight listed on food packages a few years ago. I am very careful when shopping for different baked goods, especially cookies and crackers. Comparing per unit value has become very important with current business practices going around.

    The latest package reduction I noticed is Planter’s Cashews: Halves and Pieces. The container went from 16 oz. to 14 oz. without a drop in price. I will now only buy it on sale or buy something else entirely.

    Comment by Wayne R — July 30, 2012 @ 10:00 am
  7. I stopped using Betty Crocker cakes mixes when I realized they are no longer 18.25 ounces. Most of my recipes call for the cake mix to measure 18.25 ounces, so I have started using Duncan Hines, which is still 18.25 ounces, exclusively. I have since realized the Duncan Hines is better than Betty Crocker anyway.

    Comment by Brandy — July 30, 2012 @ 12:21 pm
  8. We moved into a house that belonged to my grandmother who had died 12 years ago. I discovered a package of toliet paper in a cabinet. Upon on measurement it was almost an inch taller and stronger than the same brand of today. 🙁 Same old story!!

    Comment by teresa alford — July 30, 2012 @ 12:57 pm
  9. Cindy-
    Well-said. You’ve pretty much provided the perfect counter-argument to mine. That, in my opinion, deserves commendation. I had just woken up when I wrote that comment anyway. The downsizing is indeed the more “palatable” option- it’s kind of like hiding a vitamin pill in food for your pet; it’s something that gets them to take their medicine. As you said, the average consumer has a rough size of a container in mind. I provide one last argument, more a request. I just wish that there’d be a law to make overly-sneaky downsizes illegal. (Sounds like a job for Edgar :-P) The companies should make reasonable, visible packaging changes to make a downsize clearer to your average consumer. I do realize that some companies already make visible packaging changes to downsized products, but they’re quite few if you think about it. It should be made a bit clearer to the consumer that they’re getting a bit less for their money.

    (Another book-length comment…yikes.)

    Comment by Xterra — July 30, 2012 @ 2:41 pm
  10. @Brandy – thanks for the hint on Duncan Hines. Guess who will be getting my business from now on…=)

    Comment by Eric — July 30, 2012 @ 2:45 pm
  11. What did you expect with inflation? They should sell the full product, for the same price!

    Downsizing has been going on since the early 90’s, and is here to stay, unfortunately.


    Comment by Marv — July 30, 2012 @ 3:26 pm
  12. Sooner or later it will be one paper towel, one sheet of toilet paper (single ply), an ounce of coffee, a spoonful of cake mix……

    Comment by Rick — July 30, 2012 @ 6:38 pm
  13. The truth is that the shrinking of products has been going on for decades. Of course it’s more noticeable if you’re familiar with the item, but often, it’s very, very sneaky, and often, the size of the product looks the same but has been cleverly ‘shrunk.’ The truth is that consumers are more price-conscious than ever, so the only resort manufacturers AND stores have is to have the product size reduced but the price kept about average (but prices DO keep going up, regardless of whether size changes or not).

    Note that most refrigerated juices are now 59oz, not 64; 89oz, not 96 (the 128 Tropicana still exists for now). Recently, some Unilever novelties were reduced in amount (from 6 to 4 per package), and who knows how many, more subtle reductions, sneak right by most of us.

    Untouchable sizes (to date): a gallon of milk, 12 or 16 oz of beer and soft drinks (mainstream brands), pints and quarts of cream. But a lot of products are susceptible to reduction. Ice cream is 48oz (originally 64), how long before it’s 40? We put up with reductions instead of tolerating price increases, but it’s deceptive: the price may stay the same for a time, but eventually, due to price increases in shipping (fuel, labor) and raw ingredients, we not only pay more but get less now for a lot of things, and they will only keep shrinking and cost more.

    Comment by eb2012 — July 30, 2012 @ 8:05 pm
  14. What’s the difference between the flavor lock lid and the ‘new’ flavor lock pack, Maxwell House?

    Comment by Bearcat44 — July 30, 2012 @ 8:41 pm
  15. Xterra: “The companies should make reasonable, visible packaging changes to make a downsize clearer to your average consumer.”

    Would advertising ‘Now smaller than (previous size)!’ qualify?

    Comment by Bearcat44 — July 30, 2012 @ 8:45 pm
  16. Bearcat44 asks: “What’s the difference between the flavor lock lid and the ‘new’ flavor lock pack, Maxwell House?”

    The‘new’ flavor lock pack is smaller….

    Comment by erasmus — July 31, 2012 @ 12:46 pm
  17. @eb2012 with pop they are just putting less cans in. So you are starting to see 10 and 20 packs instead of 12 and 24…

    Comment by me — July 31, 2012 @ 4:29 pm
  18. I first noticed downsizing in college, when I noticed that my Snickers candy bar was smaller than before, and yet cost the same, 25 cents. :o(

    Yes, that was a few decades ago, in the 80’s.

    Comment by Ambar — July 31, 2012 @ 9:37 pm
  19. To me it’s all deceptive. I think the worst is the Maxwell House where they downsize and then advertise the flavor lock pack as if they have done us a favor. When you look at both containers side by side it is completely obvious that they are providing less product and promoting the new packaging as some kind of bonus at the same time. And to me the worst part is that they are probably brainstorming ways to reduce package volume while making the consumer feel they are getting even more value than before. What an insult.

    Comment by Joe — July 31, 2012 @ 10:40 pm
  20. @eb2012: Not even the beloved ice cream pint is safe. Ben & Jerry’s has left it intact (so far), but some other brands like Haagen Dazs went to 14 oz a few years ago on certain varieties. And I know they aren’t the only ones. I think Ben & Jerry’s even did an ad highlighting that w/ a not-so-subtle dig at their biggest competitor.

    Comment by Ron — August 1, 2012 @ 9:46 am
  21. With smaller sizes you loose weight and that is a good thing right???

    Comment by Richard Ginn — August 1, 2012 @ 2:06 pm
  22. Erasmus: I know that the second package is smaller. You don’t have to be Mark Fuhrman to figure out that.

    Why is there a phrasing revision? (‘Lid’ vs ‘Pack’)

    Comment by Bearcat44 — August 1, 2012 @ 10:40 pm
  23. I noticed this wknd when I went shopping that a new brand of yogurt(Oikos/Dannon) is being hailed as “better than” the brand of yogurt I buy (Chobani 6 oz.). When I compared the 2 (which were both $1) the Oikos was 5.3 oz.) I wonder how many people are going to recognize that?

    Comment by Cathy Burns — August 6, 2012 @ 8:49 am
  24. @Bearcat44; The “Pack” in the “New Flavor Lock Pack” refers to “Package”, more specifically “Package size”, and even more specifically “Smaller Package Size”.

    Edgar replies: NOT. (The old product had a “flavor lock” lid.)

    Comment by erasmus — August 6, 2012 @ 3:18 pm
  25. Was just doing some express lane shopping at Harris Teeter’s and noticed that the 10 oz box of Nabico’s Originial Wheat Thins is shrinking to 9.10 oz. They have both listed on their site so I suppose the new size is hitting the shelves now. Didn’t all Nabisco snack crackers use to be 12 oz?

    On another food subject – what is with the corn syrup solids in planter’s lightly salted dry roasted peanuts? Really, does corn syrup have to be in everything?

    Comment by alexa — August 6, 2012 @ 3:20 pm
  26. @Bearcat44; The “Pack” in the “New Flavor Lock Pack” refers to “Package”, more specifically “Package size”, and even more specifically “Smaller Package Size”.

    Edgar replies: NOT. (The old product had a “flavor lock” lid.)

    Erasmus replies: NOT NOT. The new product also has a “flavor lock” lid. IMHO by using the phrase “New Flavor Lock Pack”, they are trying to imply that the “Flavor Lock” part is “New”, when, in fact only the “Pack” part is “New”, and the only “New” part of the “Pack” is the fact that it is smaller.

    Comment by erasmus — August 6, 2012 @ 4:20 pm
  27. I noticed the Maxwell House shrinkage tonight in Target, and immediately thought “I have to take a photo of this to send to mouseprint!” Looks like someone beat me to it. Thanks for keeping an eye on things.

    What annoys me about the coffee is that usually they like to claim the package has been “improved!” (both old and new packages had the flavor-lock lid, so no improvement there…) but this new package they actually made it WORSE! The larger container had a full handle to make it easy to carry. The new carry handle is awkward and might be a change, but is anything but “improved.”

    People understand that coffee is expense, please just increase the price. We can deal with it!

    Comment by eastoftheboston — August 6, 2012 @ 7:21 pm
  28. Another drawback to downsizing is that consumers must pay for the inefficiencies inherent in smaller sized packages. Ice cream provides a good example. Two quart-sized containers cost more to package and stock than one half-gallon container (which was one reason for going to half gallons in the first place). With half gallons reduced to 48 ounces, consumers must now buy four containers to get the same amount as three half gallons, and they end up paying more than they would if no downsizing occurred. Increasing prices is not only more honest, but in the long run offers consumers the best prices. I love ice cream, and my response to downsizing has been to only buy it on sale, and do without it when necessary. As for Maxwell House, I am cutting my coffee consumption from 2-3 cups per day to one.

    Comment by Jim — August 8, 2012 @ 9:49 am
  29. @Brandy – I was just at the grocery store, and all of the DH cake mixes are only 16.5 oz now (also includes the generic brands). I did not see any 18.25oz boxes anywhere.

    Comment by Amber — August 9, 2012 @ 11:18 pm
  30. How about Iam’s dog food? The 40 pound bag is now down to 33 pounds so they took 7 out. The price is still the same.

    Comment by Sabine — August 15, 2012 @ 5:35 pm
  31. Isn’t it sort of a *good* thing that packages are getting smaller? We are eating fewer calories without even noticing maybe?

    Comment by Jennifer — August 20, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

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