The New York Times has an article out today on how food companies, in response to rising raw material costs, are surreptitiously passing along price increase to consumers by shrinking food packages--pumping more air into chips bags, say, or manipulating the bottom of peanut butter jars to render them indistinguishable from the old containers. The companies are pitching their products as "'greener' (packages good for the environment) or more 'portable' (little carry bags for the takeout lifestyle) or 'healthier' (fewer calories)," the Times explains.
The Consumerist, it turns out, has been tracking shrinking consumer packages for years through its recurring "Grocery Shrink Ray" feature. To prepare you for your next trip to the grocery store, here are some of the products that the Times and the Consumerist mention:
Kraft crackers Kraft's new "Fresh Stacks" packages for Nabisco Premium saltines, Ritz crackers, and Honey Maid graham crackers have 15 percent fewer crackers than the normal boxes but cost the same amount. But wait, it's ok! Nabisco's website explains that "we've taken the same great RITZ you already love and shrunk down the package so it will fit anywhere, from your home to your car to your office. And we've put the crackers in smaller stacks (only 15 each!), so not only is it easier to take them with you, but you'll only open what you need, having fresh-tasting crackers each time."
Dial hand soap A Consumerist reader noticed last year that the redesigned Dial hand soap bottle was slightly taller with "more sexy curves" and a flashy "NEW!" label. The decidedly less exciting part? The bottle had shrunk from 11.25 ounces to 9.375 ounces.
Reese's Minis The unwrapped Reese's Minis, which hit stores in February, are smaller than the foil-wrapped Miniatures and more expensive, according to the Times, but the new packaging makes it difficult for customers to notice the difference. On its website, Hershey's describes the new Minis as "bite-sized" and "perfectly tiny."
Walmart beef jerky Walmart used to sell its "Great Value" beef jerky in 12-ounce packages. But last year a Consumerist reader realized that the package had shrunk to 10 ounces. The kicker? The new, smaller package was now labeled "Mega Pack."
Frito-Lay chips Bags of Doritos, Tostitos, and Fritos now have 20 percent fewer chips than they did in 2009. A spokesman tells the Times that the extra chips were a "limited time" offer.
Chicken of the Sea tuna The Times reports that albacore tuna cans now contain five ounces instead of six ounces, and the five-ounce cans sometimes cost more than the larger ones.