Please Help Support Consumer World

MrConsumer For 27 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising alone nor corporate support) that keeps this site and Mouse Print* available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.
Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Act Mouthwash: Now With Less Fluoride?

A sharp reader found what he thought was a new example of skimpflation — when a product is reformulated with cheaper ingredients, or perhaps simply watered down.

He wrote about Act Total Care mouthwash which is an anticavity product with fluoride that you swish around in your mouth once a day to provide added protection for your teeth.

A closer look at the front label reveals an inconspicuous difference between the smaller bottle he had at home and the larger one he had just bought.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Act small and big

Could the print be any smaller? The strength of the fluoride is less than half in the large bottle going from 0.05% to just 0.02%! So users have to wonder whether it is going to be less effective since in essence they are giving you diluted fluoride.

But there was a second difference on the back label. Instead of gargling once a day, you have to use the product on the right, the larger bottle, twice a day.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Act smallAct large

The effect of both these differences seems like a double-whammy for users. You’re getting half the strength so you have to use twice as much a day, and the larger bottle costs more.

We asked Sanofi, the maker of Act, to explain these changes, as well as calling their consumer line. We were provided with a most unexpected answer. Although the products look the same but for the size of the bottle, and have the same name, they are actually two separate products. The smaller bottle is meant to be a once-a-day product and the larger one is meant to be a twice-a-day product, and this is nothing new. The customer service rep said the larger bottle has to have a less concentrated amount of fluoride since you are taking twice as much of it.

There is no indication on the front label that you need two doses a day from the larger bottle of Act Total Care unlike some other of their mouthwashes that at least have a tiny designation on the front.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Act 1x Act 2x

We can only wonder how many people are taking the wrong dose of Act Total Care if they change bottle sizes? Some may wind up taking double the dose, while others could wind up with only getting half the protection they expect. When we asked Sanofi why they don’t try to prevent misdosing by clearly labeling the products “1x Daily” or “2x Daily,” their spokesperson (non)responded:

“All of our products are labeled in accordance with FDA regulation.”

Please Help Support Consumer World

MrConsumer For 27 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising alone nor corporate support) that keeps this site and Mouse Print* available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.
Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

More Groceries Hit by “Skimpflation” – Part 2

We continue reporting on products this week that have been reformulated in some way, usually with less of the expensive components and often by substituting cheaper ingredients (“skimpflation”).

Scott 1000-Sheet Toilet Paper

Virtually every brand of toilet paper has been downsized over the years, but Scott still has 1000 sheets. Of course, they reduced the size of each sheet multiple times as we have reported, but the current size has remained the same since 2010. So besides raising the price, Kimberly-Clark has also tinkered with the paper itself. According to purchasers, it is getting thinner and rougher. (See recent shoppers’ reviews.)

The sheets are so thin they’re transparent. I don’t even think they are a full ply.

Won’t be buying again … Would rather use a leaf then this crap again. Couldn’t be more disappointed!!!

It’s thin like the cheap paper in public restrooms and you have to use twice as much. I will never buy again.

If you enjoy picking out little globs of paper from your body parts because it is so thin it disintegrates from getting wet with the slightest friction – this is the toilet paper for you!

To try to quantify the change, we compared the weight of a four-pack of Scott from around 2006 to today’s version, while accounting for the sheets size change. Though not perfect, this method demonstrates how much less paper fiber or pulp goes into today’s sheets. And the difference is dramatic.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Scott Weight Comparison

The current version has about 20-percent less paper by weight than the 2006 version. So if purchasers are perceiving it has gotten thinner, it is not their imagination. This a perfect example of a company reformulating the product to cut costs — the essence of skimpflation.

We don’t know if Kimberly-Clark made small changes over time or all at once. The company did not reply to multiple requests for comment.


Hungry Man Double Chicken Bowls

An eagle-eyed shopper named Random Keith found that this TV dinner had changed. Hungry Man Double Chicken Bowls fried chicken used to pack 39 grams of protein. Now it has 33 grams — 15% less protein — but it still comes in a 15-ounce box. This could suggest a reduction in the chicken or cheese content — the two most dominant proteins.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Hungry Man Double Chicken Bowl

But, a check of the ingredients statement and nutrition label offers a clue to their recipe sleight-of-hand. The new version is missing “textured soy protein concentrate” which was part of the breading. Does that solely account for the reduction in protein? We asked Conagra, the maker of Hungry Man, what had actually changed, but didn’t get an answer.


If you spot a product that has been reformulated with cheaper ingredients, please send a sharp before and after picture of the primary labels and the ingredients statements to Edgar (at symbol) ConsumerWorld.org . Thanks.

Please Help Support Consumer World

MrConsumer For 27 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising alone nor corporate support) that keeps this site and Mouse Print* available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.
Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

More Groceries Hit By “Skimpflation” — Part 1

When manufacturers face higher costs that they no longer want to absorb, they are faced with three choices: raise the price, shrink the product, or reformulate it by using cheaper ingredients or less of the expensive ingredient.

We saw this last option recently with Folgers ground coffee when its maker fluffed up the grounds and claimed to get the same number of cups in their large canister despite it holding almost half a pound less coffee.

Now, over the next two weeks we’ll show you more examples of products that have been reformulated, or put another way, have been subject to “skimpflation” — shrinkflation’s evil cousin.


Conagra’s Attempt at Skimpflation Backfires

Smart Balance Spread

Smart Balance has long been a high-priced but superior tasting spread in part because of its relatively high fat content – 64-percent. Recently they inconspicuously changed that and now it is only 39-percent oil — an almost 40-percent reduction.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Smart Balance Spread

Clearly this was a cost-cutting move by Conagra Brands because water is now the primary ingredient. Even if they didn’t read the label, purchasers are tasting the difference and complaining bitterly about the new water-logged product. About 90% of the 800+ reviews on the Smart Balance website give the product one star.

“Horrible horrible horrible!!!! You ruined a perfectly great product that we have used for years and years!!!! And without any notice. Now we’re out of $8…”

“If I wanted to spread water on my toast I would of purchased a cheap margarine…”

“You could have at least printed on the packaging that it was a new formula.”

“Your reformulation of your Smart Balance spreads is a great example of dishonesty in the marketplace. You are adding water to these mixes to lower the manufacturing cost…”

“I’d throw it out if it wasn’t so expensive, but in the meantime maybe I can spread it on our dog’s biscuits….although not sure he would even eat it.”

Despite multiple requests, Conagra did not answer our questions about the product change. However, customer service representatives for the company have begun telling this to their customers:

Smart Balance comments

Wow, they are actually listening to customers and are going to bring back the original recipe spread. But is it possible that this multi-billion dollar company did not do a product test with consumers before launching the watered-down version and just waited to see if people would notice and complain?

So while the watery reformulated version is still on store shelves, we decided to help Conagra better communicate the changes in the product by creating a revised label for it that is just a tiny bit more straightforward. 🙂

Dumb Balance


Next week, we’ll have two more examples of skimpflation. If you spot a product that has been reformulated with cheaper ingredients, please send clear pictures of the old and new versions along with shots of the ingredients statements to Edgar (at symbol) MousePrint.org . Thanks.