Scott Toilet Paper: Still 1000 Sheets*

scott singleThere are certain things in life you can always count on, literally. One is that Scott toilet paper will have 1000 sheets on the roll and will last a lot longer than its ever-shrinking competitors.

Scott recently released a “Now Improved!” version of the product saying in an ad that it is an “improved long-lasting value.”  “Now with a new soft-textured pattern — and long-lasting convenience.”

What they didn’t boast about was this:

*MOUSE PRINT:  Each of the 1000 sheets is now 3.7 inches instead of the old 4.0 inches long, thus making each roll 300 inches shorter. [Click picture to see old and new packaging and square footage statement.]

In an email, the makers of Scott explained further:

“The new embossed sheet on SCOTT® 1000 bathroom tissue was extensively tested with consumers before it was introduced to the market. Consumer research indicated that the embossed sheet enhanced softness, thickness, and overall product quality. Although consumers preferred this new sheet, we are sorry that you were disappointed. Please be assured that we will share your comments with those involved.

Consumers told us that they preferred our new embossed sheet. To add this feature, we need to choose to either reduce the number of sheets in the roll or decrease the size of each sheet to maintain the overall roll diameter. Consumers favored the smaller sheet to the count reduction. “

Toilet paper, like many products is periodically downsized. You get a little bit less, and typically the package stays the same as does the selling price. It is a clever way to pass on a price increase, since you are paying more per ounce, pound, foot, or whatever.

Thousand sheet toilet paper started out by having sheets that were typically 4.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches long. The length was shortened a bit to 4.4 inches and then to 4.0 inches. With Scott going to 3.7 inches, the other brands are sure to follow. The net result is that 8/10ths of an inch has been shaved from each sheet over the years. That means each roll is 800 inches shorter.

Some improvement.

Hellmann’s Mayo: Introduces the 30 oz. Quart*

hellmans smallSome things always come in quarts: milk, motor oil, and mayonnaise, for example. You don’t have to look at the net weight statement, because a quart is 32 ounces, and that is what you always get.

Next time you go to the supermarket and pick up a quart-size jar of Hellmann’s (in the east) and probably Best Foods (in the west), you are going to be in for a little surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:  The net weight statement now reads “30 oz.” instead of 32.

While the size change is apparent looking at the old and new jars side by side, you don’t have that comparison in the store. You see a dozen identical jars that look like the regular quart jar, and priced like the regular quart jar. You grab one, and you get snookered because they all have two ounces less in them.

All mayonnaise has come in quart jars for decades. Unlike tuna fish that has been downsized multiple times, this is the first time it has happened to mayonnaise. That’s what makes it so surprising, and why it has gone virtually unnoticed.

Why did Unilever Bestfoods do this?  Here’s what customer service said:

“At Unilever Bestfoods we have always taken great pride in offering the highest quality products at reasonable and fair prices.

Recently, inflationary pressures have brought about by the increased costs of raw materials. Rather than raise our prices, we chose to slightly reduce the size of the 32 oz quart and 16 oz pint. This is the first time in over three years that we have had to increase costs to our consumers.”

As with other categories of items that have been downsized, it is a sneaky way to pass on a price increase. Expect competing brands to trim their jars sometime soon.  

Tide: Same Box, 17oz. Less*

Tide smallThese boxes of Tide look identical, but they are not. One has 17 ounces less detergent than the other, and costs the same price. How can this be?  It is called “downsizing.”

Product downsizing has been a fact of consumer life since the nickel candy bar. Rather than pass on a price increase directly to consumers, many manufacturers simply and inconspicuously make the product a little smaller, while keeping the selling price the same. Effectively, this is a hidden price increase. Historically, paper towels, detergent, candy bars, toilet paper, coffee, and tuna fish have been common items that keep shrinking in count or net weight.

Manufacturers virtually never call the consumer’s attention to the fact that you are getting less for your money. In fact, they often direct the grocery shopper’s attention away from the small net weight statement by proclaiming something new about the product, like a new fragrance or improved formulation.

Tide powder appears to have just downsized the contents of its boxes significantly, while leaving the packages the exact same size.

*MOUSE PRINT: Old box: “87 OZ (5.43 LB)”; New box: “70 OZ (4.37 LB)” [Packages on store shelves July 8, 2006. Click on packages above to read net weight statements. ]

Despite the fact that you are getting over a pound less of product for the same price in the same size box, you still somehow get “40 uses” from each package. Did they make the scoop smaller?  Did they fluff up the powder?  Did they change the formula? Does it still work as well?  Tide customer service responds:

“You are still getting the same number of uses per package of Tide. By removing non-necessary materials in the manufacturing process, we improved the solubility and improved the cleaning performance. The changes we have made are so that less weight can do more. Keep in mind, you aren’t measuring the amount by weight. You are using a volume measurement on the scoop. If you fill the scoop to the lowest fill line (the amount recommended for an average wash load), you will get the number of uses printed on the package.”

Also surprising is that except for the inconspicuous change to the net weight statement in the bottom right-hand corner of the box, the packages are absolutely identical in size, wording, and graphics. Unless you are in the habit of checking the net weight of the product every time you shop, you could easily have been completely unaware that over a pound of Tide had inconspicuously been removed from the box.

The lesson: check the net weight and net count of products you regularly buy so you can spot these sneaky changes.