Product Downsizing: What’s Next?

We’ve posted in this space before about the marketing phenomenon known as ‘product downsizing’. That’s what they call it when they reduce the amount of product but keep the package the same size. It started decades ago with candy bars and breakfast cereals, but folks caught on pretty quick…

Ritz Crackers - Downsized - © mouseprints.orgMouseprint.org has a running tally of popular products that have been sneakily downsized.
Like the comparison, above. featuring Ritz Crackers. Same box, same price,
— less product! (Down from: 1 lb. / 16 oz. / 453 g to 13.7 oz. / 388 g)

Now, new techniques and procedures have made downsizing harder to detect. Take the story of the popular d’Italiano premium Hot Dog and Hamburger Buns, for example. Until about a month ago, the whole d’Italiano line of premium Breads and Rolls was distinguished from ‘regular’, run-of-the-mill products by their larger size, richer flavour and finer texture. Then, rising ingredient costs and other factors forced the makers to do something to maintain profit margins while keeping the price competitive. So, they kept the packaging and the price the same and quietly reduced the size of their rolls by about 10 percent. Some people didn’t notice. But I did.

I have a a foolproof way to measure…

I make my own Burger Patties and freeze them in meal-sized portions when Ground Beef is on special. I use a ring mold and a 4 oz. scoop to make sure they are all the same size, so they’ll all cook at the same rate. I chose my ring mold size originally to produce Patties that fit the d’Italiano Hamburger Buns perfectly. Yes, I am a perfectionist about some things. And I want a bite of Meat in every bite of my Burger. About a month ago, I noticed that my Patties were now larger than the buns, and alarm bells rang in my brain.

Sure enough, the Hamburger Buns were smaller in diameter, and considerably reduced in height. Not only that, but the size reduction makes them harder to separate from one another without tearing, and they tend to flop around in their plastic bag, sustaining considerable deformation and other damage on the way from the bakery to my kitchen.

Subsequent research confirms that the Rolls in question have been downsized from 585 g per package of 8 to 528 g.

Downsizing is everywhere…

I talked to my friendly, neighbourhood supermarket manager about the problem, and he laid it on the line:

“We’re not responsible for downsizing,” he pointed out. “It’s the manufacturers. But we have to front it to the customer.”

I said I realized that – while many customers wouldn’t, without an explanation – but could he take my message back to the manufacturer?

“They’ve already made up their minds and re-tooled their baking machines before we even hear about it,” the manager said. “For them, it’s all about profit margins. And they don’t have to take the heat from folks like you.”

I said I’d gladly pay a few cents more per Bun if they went back to the size they used to be, and I thought others who liked them as they were would, too.

It’s a done deal…

“It’s a done deal,” he said. “And it’s happening all the time. Look at the Frutopia display over in the cooler, there. They’re clearing this week. Next week, the new stock will be downsized, and the manufacturer doesn’t want people to see the smaller cartons next to the larger ones. And wait for summer. The soft drinks are going to be downsized. The two-litre and individual plastic bottles. In fact, I heard the small, 500 ml bottles will be reduced from 500 ml to 485.”

I thanked him for his time and patience, and bade him farewell, thinking, ‘I’m glad I don’t have to take the consumer heat for downsizing!’

~ Maggie J.

Posted under: Food News, Food Tips, Foodie Life Lessons

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