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September 17, 2018

Aldi Waters Down Its Margarine… Literally

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

Aldi is an international chain of limited assortment supermarkets known for very low prices on most items. They carry very few national brands. Rather, store brands dominate their shelves.

In recent months, MrConsumer noticed price increases on various items there like cookies, peanut butter, pretzels, and more. One particular item, their 45-ounce tub of margarine, has had two price increases in recent months. It had been $1.79 for years, but jumped to $1.99 several months ago, and shortly thereafter went up again to $2.29.

Aldi margarine old

Last week, there was another change to this product. The margarine now comes in a rectangular tub:

Aldi margarine new

A closer examination of the package, however, revealed an additional change that was very unwelcome.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Aldi 51%

VS.

Aldi 40%

They cut the amount of oil in the product by over 20 percent. So what replaced the oil? Water! In fact, the primary ingredient in this margarine is now water, whereas previously it was oil.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Aldi margarine ingredients

We asked Aldi’s PR agency to explain why they literally watered down this product rather than raise the price, why they didn’t label the product as a new formulation, and whether they conducted any consumer taste tests to demonstrate that consumers preferred the new version. They declined to answer the questions.

Sadly, name brand tub “spreads” like Country Crock and Blue Bonnet are also only 39-40% oil these days. I don’t know about you, but MrConsumer just loves to spread emulsified water on his crisp English muffins.




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August 13, 2018

Tropicana Orange Juice Downsizes Again

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

Back in the good old days, one could buy half a gallon of Tropicana orange juice in a container. Then in 2010, the company (and the industry) downsized the traditional 64 ounce container to 59 ounces.

Tropicana 64-59
Tropicana 64-59 net contents

Then they introduced attractive carafes of orange juice in a shape not easily distinguishable as a particular size, but they were still 59 ounces.

Now in the summer of 2018, Tropicana, following the lead of Simply Orange, is in the process of downsizing again. This time to a mere 52 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana 59-52 ounces

The bottles look identical on store shelves. Same width, same height. So how did they reduce the contents by a full seven ounces so inconspicuously?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tropicana bottles profile

The bottles aren’t as deep as they were… that’s how they accomplished this clever sleight-of-hand.

On the Tropicana website, they explain why they downsized the product:

Tropicana downsize explained

We consider this one of the sneakiest downsizes ever because of both the tiny net contents statement which is often hidden by the shelf rack edge in some supermarkets, and the appearance of the bottles which look identical head-on. What do you think? Add your comments below.

Thanks to eagle-eyed reader, Edward E., for catching the change.




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April 16, 2018

Here We Downsize Again (2018) – Part 1

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

In the never ending saga of products shrinking in size as a means to pass on a sneaky price increase to consumers, we offer these three new ones thanks to our eagle-eyed readers.

John R. spotted this gem in the dairy case. As he points out, orange juice makers laid the groundwork for being a commonly downsized item when most brands discontinued half gallon containers in favor of 59 ounce ones. And now at least one big brand is at it again.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Simply Orange

Simply Orange has just gone from 59 ounces down to 52 ounces. On its website, the company explains their decision:

The decision to reduce our 59-ounce PET package was made after careful consideration of the current cost pressures within our supply chain as well as clear data on consumer’s price preferences. We are committed to bringing quality juices and drinks to the market and have decided to reduce our 59-ounce PET package in order to keep prices fair for our loyal customers. As part of our ongoing commitment to keep shoppers well informed, we are communicating the new 52-ounce PET package size on the Simply website and we are making the package weight more prominent on our front-of-pack labeling.




The ever-shrinking toilet paper roll is getting smaller again, at least for purchasers of Quilted Northern. Our ace downsizing detective, Richard G., found the latest example.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Quilted Northern

The “mega” roll has gone from 330 sheets to 308 sheets.




Lastly, TRESemme shampoo has downsized at least one of its varieties again.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Tresemme

TRESemme

Most varieties of TRESemme were 32 ounces originally. Then they were downsized to 25 to 28 ounces depending on the type. Now a “new look” bottle signals yet another change — this time it is down to just 22 ounces for one variety.

Thanks to Richard G. for finding this latest change. If you spot a product that has shrunk in size, try to send a sharp picture of both the old and new package to Mouse Print*.




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March 5, 2018

A Different Kind of Downsizing

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

Christian M. wrote to us recently about a different kind of downsizing. It seems he purchased a canister of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and noticed that it had been downsized.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Lysol wipes

Both canisters have 80 sheets, but the net weight dropped two full ounces from 19.7 oz. to 17.7 oz.

Did they make each sheet smaller? A consumer can’t tell because unlike a package of paper towels, the dimensions of each sheet aren’t disclosed on the label. Or, did they put less Lysol disinfectant in the package? Who can tell?

Our consumer took pictures of the old and new wipes.

lysol wipes side by side

The old sheet, on top, is made of solid material, while the new sheet, which is slightly larger, appears to have a waffle weave, with pockets that are almost see-through.

We wrote to the PR folks at RB (formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser) asking what was reduced — the amount of disinfectant, the weight of the wipes when dry, or both. Their spokesperson replied in part:

…the total weight of our Lysol Disinfecting Wipes product has been reduced due to recent innovation with the wipes themselves, while still providing the same cleaning power and unbeatable disinfection, killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.

In 2017, Lysol launched a new non-woven substrate, scientifically redesigned in cooperation with consumers, highlighting a ‘peaks and valleys’ pattern. The ratio of liquid and non-woven have been optimized to guarantee sufficient wetness for a precise cleaning and disinfection, while providing the benefit of “trapping and lifting messes”.

So, maybe it was a combination of less liquid and thinner sheets, but who knows.

As an aside, it does seem odd that this product category has net weight statements seemingly based on solid weight (wipes plus liquid combined). RB says the way they declare the contents is consistent with federal rules which do not require sheet size for this type of product.




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August 21, 2017

Pret a Manger Accused of Deceptive Sandwich Packaging

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

MrConsumer had occasion to eat at what he considers an expensive regional European sandwich shop last March called Pret a Manger. He discovered something sneaky about how they packaged their sandwich wraps.

Pret Bang Bang Chicken

Upon opening the package, one gets an unexpected surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pret revealed

What looked like a long wrap sandwich, potentially worth the $7.49 price, turns out to be two small halves that come nowhere close to filling the package. The “Lovingly Made” cardboard surrounding the middle of the sandwich hides the dirty little secret of the empty space between the two halves. I thought to myself — great — I have a good Mouse Print* story.

As we have discussed in the past, deceptive packaging can be illegal, particularly when there is nonfunctional empty space in the package. That’s called slack fill, and it tends to give consumers a misimpression about the actual contents of the package. It makes the consumer think there is more product inside than there really is.

Fast forward to this summer when a New York consumer purchased a different wrap at Pret and got snookered too. He thought to himself — great — and he filed a class action lawsuit a few weeks ago against the company claiming millions of dollars of losses suffered by purchasers of these kinds of wraps. His lawsuit claims that depending on the sandwich there can be up to two-and-a-half inches of empty space between the two halves. (See story in Gothamist.)

So we asked Pret about their reaction to the lawsuit and why they package their wraps in this deceptive manner. They did not respond.




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