The Supermarket Diet



I’ve noticed a disturbing trend when conducting price checks for my Retail Spotlights and while doing my own personal shopping — there is major downsizing going on when it comes to product sizes.


Last week I picked up a carton of Tropicana to find that overnight it shrunk from a half gallon (64 ounces) to 59 ounces. I’m no math whiz, but that’s a drop of 5 ounces, or almost 8%. Interestingly, there was no starburst on the carton announcing the “new” size, nor a shelf talker stating the carton is now more “fridge friendly.”


Tropicana was not alone. I noticed in this same shopping trip that Peter Pan peanut butter has dropped from 18-ounces to 16.3-ounces. Since unless you read the ounces on the label the change isn’t readily noticeable I’m sure Jif and Skippy will soon follow. And good luck trying to find a pound of bacon. Most brands I looked at were now 12-ounces.


I know the downsizing has been going on for years, but lately it seems to have accelerated.Canned vegetables that were once 16 ounces have dropped to 14.5. Likewise, cranberry sauce dropped from 16-ounces to 14. And not just the Ocean Spray national brand, but the private label too. I have to think that as sizes continue to drop it is going to impact recipes. I’ve noticed that with canned tuna. A 7-ounce can dropped to 6.5-ounces, then 6-ounces and the industry standard is now 5. Drain off the water and you’re left with about 2-ounces of tuna. That’s hardly enough to make one sandwich.


The downsizing has gotten to the point where retailers should demand the standard size from their private label suppliers and use it as a key selling point. Imagine the benefit of seeing your 16-ounce can of cranberry sauce or creamed corn next to the noticeably smaller 14-ounce Ocean Spray or Del Monte. A shelf talker or starburst could call out “2 ounces more AND a better value too!” In this economy that would definitely spike private label sales.


Interestingly enough, the shrink hasn’t been as rampant at the membership clubs. Kirkland brand tuna at Costco still comes in a 7-ounce can. I have my brother buy it for me when he shops there.


I’m sure manufacturers will blame the downsizing on everything from the recession, the need to reduce costs, and somehow reducing their carbon footprint, but it doesn’t appear that the prices are following suit. The stores where I did my price check were selling that 59-ounce carton of Tropicana for $3.42, $2.95 and $3.72.      

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