Farms, Farming and Food

Food and Agriculture in the Maritimes, Canada and around the world

Short Sizing – The magically shinking package size

  • November
  • 19

1:20 am Food Labelling, food processing

Have you ever noticed that certain food items that you buy don’t seem to last as long as before? This could be due to the practice known as short sizing.

What is short sizing?

The practice of short sizing consists of slightly reducing package sizes while keeping the prices near the same level. This has the effect of reducing the amount of food required to be manufactured thus reducing the manufacturer’s cost. In some cases, the packaging remains identical but the amount of food in the package is reduced. As prices are kept the same, manufacturers increase their profit margin. Some manufacturers claim that the practice is used to prevent the need to raise prices but the effect for the consumer is the same, less food for the same price.

Short sizing can and does happen in other retail packages such as shampoo and cleaning supplies but it can be seen most often in food products.

Does it really matter?

Short sized packages are typically slightly smaller than the previous packages which they replace. For example, a 1 litre jar of peanut butter might be reduced to 975 ml or a 500 g box of crackers might get replaced by a 450 g box. The small change has the effect that many consumers will not notice the smaller size and simply purchase the product as they had before.

Slight reductions in sizes, especially to odd sizes can also make it more difficult for shoppers to perform unit cost calculations for comparison shopping. 5$ for a 500 ml can of juice makes it easy to calculate a 1$ per 100 ml unit cost. 5$ for a 475 ml can of juice however is a bit tougher to calculate the unit cost of $1.05 per 100 ml. By making it more difficult to compare unit costs, it is hard for grocery shoppers to know if they are really getting a good value for their food dollars. Although I can’t find the original study, reportedly, in a UK study : “When provided with only the total price and weight for six different sizes of baked beans, just 7% of consumers could accurately calculate the lowest unit price.”

People are taking notice

Many consumers are growing frustrated with short sizing and recently the mainstream media such as the NY Times and the LA Times have picked up stories of consumer frustration.

Does it bother you that packages are shrinking without getting any cheaper?

Update: Another article about short sizing:–why-juice-boxes-are-10-smaller-but-cost-the-same

1 comment

Another example of short sizing this time with Peter Pan peanut butter. This time the company trying to exploit an environmental claim too:

Posted by admin, on June 24th, 2009, at 9:35 am. #.

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