Is Our Food Getting Smaller?


Is it just our eyes, or are some of our favourite foods actually getting smaller? Despite the trip to the supermarket being more expensive, it seems we’re getting less for our money.

Cadbury reduced the size of its 140g bar of Dairy Milk to 120g – that’s a whole two chunks less!

Do you remember your first Wagon Wheel? I’m sure it was bigger than it is today…and I’m not the only one. However, despite repeated insistence from customers that the old favourite is smaller, Burton’s Biscuit company says it hasn’t changed a bit. Their response is that “most often our first Wagon Wheel experience is in childhood, and hence our hands are much smaller.”

We’re not just imagining it though. John West tuna reduced the weight of drained tuna in its tins from 130g to 112g in October 2012, without reducing the price. This was down to the increase in the price of tuna by 30% last year, they say.

It’s not just tuna either. Last year a Which? study found that loads of products have been shrinking. It discovered that Dairylea cheese spread, Kellogg’s Coco Pops, Mars and Branston pickle had all been squeezed at the middle.

John Smiths is also watering down its beer to save money – £6.6m in duty taxes in fact – by reducing the alcohol content. It’s still raised its price per pint by 2.5p, though.

Most outrageously, in 2011 Cadbury reduced the size of its 140g bar of Dairy Milk to 120g – that’s a whole two chunks less! (It was marketed as being a ‘new shape’). And you may have noticed that Quality Street tins were a little trimmer this Christmas – Nestle put the best-selling chocolate on a diet and cut them from 1kg to 820g, to match its slimmer cousins Roses and Heroes.

So is it some effort to tackle obesity, as Mars claims? Or is it a necessary step for companies to cope with rising fuel and commodity costs, as a Cadbury spokesman highlighted when they ‘re-modelled’ their 49g bars to a more rounded, slimmer 45g oblong shape?

subway 11 inch footlongSubway recently hit the headlines as a disgruntled customer measured his ‘Footlong’ sub and found it measured just 11 inches. The company responded by saying “SUBWAY FOOTLONG is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub… and not intended to be a measurement of length.” Excuses, excuses!

Consumer marketing professor Vince-Wayne Mitchell comments that “This strategy is most often used in recessionary times, when price is more important to consumers. The competition are keeping their prices low because consumers are more price sensitive – so giving customers a reason to go elsewhere is not a good idea.”

The sneaky brands also get a double whammy from shrinking the size of their products, because if they decide to return to their original size, they can shout about it being “10% extra free!”… Cheeky!

Well, at least we can nibble on our Dairy Milk and enjoy a pint of John Smiths without feeling quite as guilty…

What do you think? What foods have you noticed change in size and do you think it’s fair? Leave your comments below.